Vision over small things

In 2010, I had the pleasure and honor of opening a middle school. I would be the first choir director of this school and would build its program. After two years, our principal got a job as Assistant Superintendent for Student Engagement. Our new incoming principal, before the end of that year, sent a survey to the staff asking for our opinion as to the needs of the school or changes we would like to see. When we met him for the first time in the Fall, his observations of the survey were sobering. The feedback given by the staff, outlining changes they would like to see, were specific in nature, but did not address an overall vision of what the school and students in it could achieve. Later, he did something that would become an annual tradition during his tenure at our school. He read a book called, The Spyglass : A Book about Faith, by Richard Paul Evans. In this book, a king rules over a kingdom that is in ruin. A man comes to the kingdom and after having been given room and board in the palace, offers the king the spyglass. Through the spyglass, the king sees a bountiful and flourishing kingdom. This represents what the kingdom could be. The lesson of this gorgeously illustrated picture book, is that in order to achieve success or bountifulness, there must first be a vision.

In the brief, yet powerful IASL session, “Achieving transformational change in the school library,” Green states that if one wants powerful, meaningful change, a few things need to be realized:

  1. There are two types of changes
    1. First-order changes – small improvements but do not change the “system’s core”
    2. Second-order changes – “transformational” and are “deep and meaningful changes” in the system.

2. Change takes time – When one comes up with their vision, it may not take one, two or three years. It may be a goal and vision of one’s career

3. Try to align the library’s vision with the vision and strategic planning of the school, and/ or district. (Green, 2021)

When my new principal polled the staff about changes they would like to see, I suspect the responses he saw were “first-order” changes. For the staff, the annual reading of The Spyglass: A Book about Faith, was powerful. It demonstrated that in order to exact change, there has to be a vision shared with the community, in our case, teachers. This is powerful for current and future librarians, because as Green points out, it is likely that not everyone will support the changes you want. But if you share your vision and that vision aligns with their vision, insofar as the students are concerned, that will make your case more compelling and cooperative. That consequently, will help your vision become a reality.

This year will likely be my last year as a choir director before becoming a school librarian. In these last weeks of summer, it is easy to think of my beginning of the year to-do lists. It is easy to focus on second-order changes – how do we want to arrange seats, how should we go about “giving” music to students? However, through the lens presented by Green, I recognize the difference between these little changes and transformational changes. I am excited to spend ample time considering my second-order changes in addition to my first-order changes. What is my vision for this year and beyond? These reflections, musings, and short and long term goals will be the real precursor to change.

Green, L. (2021, July 12-16). Achieving transformational change in the school library. [Conference session]. IASL 2021 Annual Conference, Denton, Texas, United States. https://iasl-online.org/event-3667867

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