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Pilots: Pointing Toward the Progress We Want to See in School

April 13, 2012

In a recent post, “Creating a Progress Culture One Pilot at a Time,” I identified four reasons to support piloting ideas and programs in schools. In this post I will expand on the first of those ideas:

  • “Supporting pilots points toward the progress we want to see in the school. Piloting an idea foreshadows the direction we are trying to go (I have written about the importance of foreshadowing progress in an earlier post). Accepting the idea of a pilot course or program is far easier than making a change that purports from the start to be permanent. Pilots allow a school to test drive ambitious ideas.”

Schools have a hard time changing course in large part because the muddiness of transition to something new feels too risky, and the pressure to be perfect from day one is oppressive. Doing something new in a school can feel like skipping all of pre-season practice and just showing up for the first game…or having to know how to juggle the first time you ever try.

In an earlier blog I tried to capture this predicament this way: “There is an old metaphor for leading change in schools: ‘Leading change in a school is like needing to be the best airplane mechanic in the world because you can only fix the plane while it is in the air.’ The tentativeness this statement encourages is inappropriate for the pace of progress that will be demanded of schools in the coming years.”

Creating pilots helps us avoid that tentativeness, and it provides one way to avoid having to be perfect at something before there is ever have a chance to practice and refine.

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