Reflections from Austin as We Prepare for Change

Attending the UT/TASA Summer Conference on Education has become a tradition for me. In the heat of the Austin sun, and especially when it follows the legislative session, educators get updates from the Texas Education Agency, and the TASA members themselves get to thank our advocacy team for being our voice, and making a difference for public education in Texas. This year proved to be another fantastic event with small reunions with former teammates, conversations with role models, appreciation of forward thinking clients, and old friends who work to move education forward on a daily basis. All of this, coupled with the futuristic stage that Gary Marx set at the first general session, set the tone for another strong TASA event.

The theme of the conference this year was 'A Multidimensional Approach to Leading Change,' and Marx was a hit, as he challenged Texas superintendents and other educational leaders to think about impressions that must be considered in the transformation process. His way of grounding conference attendees in the world stimulated much conversation that was heard for days following his presentation. Marx revealed trends in demographics, technology, economics, our environment, the international sphere, aspects of learning, leadership, and overall well-being as people that define our society. Yes, much of it was deep. I appreciate the thought provoking way he posited his thoughts, and warned us to be ready for change.

Change ' it happens all around us, every day. At times, we are the cause of it, and other times, we are the effect. In both cases, we evolve as a democracy. Change and professional opportunities for growth go hand in hand. Professional learning serves to provide us with new ideas, or to affirm those concepts we already know, but deepen our understanding. I had a deepening experience this summer. Some of my favorite specific reminders from Marx are as follows:

<strong>         Strategic plans need to become living strategies as our world continues to change.</strong>

I know this ' we all know this, but his use of the term 'living strategies' made it more real for me. As the leader who was responsible for the five-year strategic plan in a large urban district, I tried to get others to understand this so that there was true meaning in our plan, and not just the phrases that met the requirements as outlined by the state. 'Living strategies' makes all aspects of the plan actionable if they are written and measured in the right way. One of my strengths is 'learner' as evidenced by the Gallup process. Part of learning is to use what you know today to make a better tomorrow for someone else. I will do this, but I do wish this phrase had met me a few years ago.

<strong>         Leadership means giving others permission to do what they can do.</strong>

I knew this one too. In fact, as a developer of others, I always wanted my teammates to use their strengths in order to know who they are as leaders so that they realize their true potential, and experience their own success in their career. Leaders identify strengths of others, and then help them develop through practice. I did some reflection on my own practice as I was driving home. In my career, I have been given this permission by some of the best leaders and mentors. For that, I am thankful. Today, as an Educational Planner, I have that same permission. Leadership always makes the difference!

          <strong>We must interpret society into the educational system.</strong>

Of course we must! This is why curricula are a process, and the learning that takes place because of them continues to respond to how and why it is taught. I am a believer in Dr. Bob Thompson's (Lamar University) assertion that 'communities get the schools they want.' He has a brilliant mind, and Marx's reminder took me back to Dr. Bob's quote that I learned in 2005. I was a principal then, and he had to convince me. Today, I know the value of his lesson. I believe education exists in order to perpetuate our democracy. Yes, we must assimilate society into the educational system so that it continues to evolve into the values of citizens today.

We hear about the changes that the future will bring for imminent careers as technology progresses. I hear different speakers share different statistics, and I try to keep a general understanding of how to apply all of this in my roles of educator, educational planner, and mother in this marathon of life. However, a few statistics resonated with me when I heard Marx share them. According to his source, Shaping Tomorrow, by 2020, 60% of new jobs will require skills that only 20% of the public currently possess. Additionally, 80% of our workforce will be in the service industry, and 50% of the total workforce will be occupied by Generation X and Millennials. Lifelong learning is not just a trendy phrase; it is a real mindset that we must all anticipate.

What do we do as change transcends us? We accept responsibility for being a part of the larger process. Stimulating curiosity and asking good questions are sound practices that we should all employ so that we can be comfortable with intellectual risk-taking. The informed, calculated risks that we take today support creativity, which will realize the future that we cannot yet see.