Your Permission Slip to be Bold!

Angela Spanier, Director of Communications – Most of my friends and family have jobs they do mainly to earn a living. They work to travel, to renovate their home, to feed their kids, to retire. Having worked as an education writer for the past 30 years that certainly hasn't been my experience – and definitely not since I climbed on board with Rocky View Schools (RVS) back in 2007.

Two weeks into working for this jurisdiction, I felt like I had hit the jackpot and been given a permission slip to be BOLD. Most ideas I researched and presented were received with, “Let’s give that a try.” or “Make it happen.” Most questions I posed led to, “Right, we need to consider that.” or “The smartest person in the room is the one who asks the question, not the one that knows the answer. Thank you for asking.”

Many of RVS’ old timers (yes, I am now considered that being the second-longest serving director at the Education Centre (EC)) fondly remember how exciting it was when 21st C learning was introduced to our system. But I’m here to tell you that we’re just entering the most rewarding time in our jurisdiction’s history – if you make yourself vulnerable and are open to a new strategic approach!

RVS’ Spring and Fall School Playbooks and, to be released Oct. 8, 2019, the EC Playbook, are YOUR permission slip to be BOLD. Moving our jurisdiction beyond compliance-drive structures towards authentic engagement (from my viewpoint, I’m referring to the elimination of my branch’s SEPs and SARRs templates), the playbooks are based on design thinking and aim to empower our front-line staff - our teachers, our secretaries, our payroll staff and more - in driving their ideas and solutions forward.

Recently I was asked, “Can you simplify the process? I’ve read through the spring and fall playbooks eight times and still can’t get my head wrapped around design thinking.” My answer is yes, I CAN; here is design thinking in four easy steps:

  1. Build Empathy – Reach out to those you serve and ask them, “What am I doing well and how can I serve you better?”
  2. Collaborate – Pull together people from diverse backgrounds to identify how you might address the needs you’ve uncovered.
  3. Identify Solutions – Map out how to employ possible solutions founded on evidenced-based practices, then test them early.
  4. Reflect and Report the Way Forward – Reflect, modify and share what you’ve learned so others learn too.

Ever so grateful to Associate Superintendent of Learning Dave Morris and crew for introducing RVS to IDEO’s human-centred design model and to Superintendent of Schools Greg Luterbach for endorsing it, I see design thinking as an opportunity for ALL staff to boldly question, amplify, test and move innovative ideas forward. Just think of the unlimited possibilities if all 2,500 staff truly engaged in this movement; our students would soar!

My wish for Rocky View Schools is that all staff members find their calling and find their workplace more personal, more supportive, more creative and, ultimately, more rewarding; design thinking can carry us there! RVS already is a special place where extraordinary people do extraordinary things for kids and the world around them. Be BOLD, be the first follower, and watch what happens to Inclusion, Instructional Design, Professional Learning, System Redesign and to leadership…