1. Read Finding Our Way
  2. Keep a Blog on the Network at fivefreedoms.org
  3. Become Skilled in Critical Friendship
  4. (Slowly) Think a New Way Into Being
  5. Conduct Stakeholder Interviews

1. Read Finding Our Way

Finding Our Way is a collection of organizational theorist Margaret Wheatley’s articles. Wheatley applies themes she has addressed throughout her career to detail the organizational practices and behaviors that bring more reflective, functional learning environments to life.

“The pieces presented here,” she writes,”represent more than ten years of work, of how I took the ideas in my books and applied them in practice in many different situations. However, this is more than a collection of articles. I updated, revised or substantially added to the original content of each one. In this way, everything written here represents my most current views on these subjects.”

To order Finding Our Way, click here.

To listen to podcasts with Meg Wheatley, click here.

2. Keep a Blog on the Network at fivefreedoms.org

The Network at fivefreedoms.org provides an online forum for people committed to First Amendment freedoms, democratic schools, and the idea that children should be seen and heard. Visit the Network to set up your own personal profile, and then use the Blog feature to regularly share your ideas and observations about your own professional practices – or take a few minutes to read the insights of others.

The Five Freedoms Project Network is no longer active, but you can read archived posts and discussions here.

3. Become Skilled in Critical Friendship

The Critical Friends Group (CFG) process, first developed by the Annenberg Institute for School Reform at Brown University, focuses on developing collegial relationships, encouraging reflective practice, and rethinking the role of school leadership. The process is designed to build a culture of equity and cooperative adult learning – an approach that runs contrary to most adult work environments.

“Critical friends take an interest in one another’s core beliefs and the commonly held beliefs of the learning community,” explains Daniel Baron, a 30-year veteran of the work. “They support one another in closing the gap between their beliefs and practices and hold one another accountable for continually adapting their practice to meet the needs of all learners, sharing resources and ideas, and supporting one another as they take risks to improve their practices. They commit themselves to:

  • Be reflective
  • Make their teaching practices public to one another
  • Frame meaningful questions and ask for substantive feedback from one another
  • Hold one another accountable for meeting the needs of students who struggle the most
  • Ask the kinds of questions that provoke and challenge their assumptions and habits
  • Believe that together they are more capable of knowing what they need to know and learning what they need to learn than they are alone.

To learn more about the CFG process, click here to visit the National School Reform Faculty’s web site.

4. (Slowly) Think a New Way Into Being

You can help this process along by asking yourself a few reflective questions, and then visually representing your answers in some way – a journal, a drawing, etc.

Get started by answering these four prompts:

  1. What in your life and work are the situations, practices and activities that connect you most with your best sources of energy and inspiration?
  2. Consider these activities and situations as small seeds and building blocks of the future: what might a possible future look like in which these small seeds and building blocks are interconnected and grow into an inspiring whole that resonates with your best energies?
  3. If you were to bring that future into the world, what would you need to let go of? What, in other words, are the old habits that must die in order for something new to emerge?
  4. If you took the risk and this project failed, what would be the worst-case scenario, and would you be ready to face it?

5. Conduct Stakeholder Interviews

Regularly reserve time to spend with key stakeholders and have a conversation with them in which you actively work to walk in their shoes and see your job (and behavior) from their point of view. Here are four questions you might use, derived from Otto Scharmer’s book Theory U, to frame the discussion:

  1. What is your most important goal here, and how can I help you achieve it?
  2. What criteria will you use to determine whether my contributions to your work have been successful or not?
  3. If I tried to change two things I’m responsible for with regard to your own work, which things would be of the greatest value and benefit for you?
  4. Are there any historic barriers that have traditionally made it difficult for people with my job to support you and your work? If so, what is it that keeps getting in your way?