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Sharing Our Practice: CTQ Learns and Leads through Home Base Week

At CTQ, we love to highlight the incredible learning environments created by teachers. We enjoy elevating and celebrating the innovative solutions educators have to the complex problems of the system. In that spirit, we would love to share our learning experiences and the celebrations we recently had at CTQ's home base of Carborro, NC. CTQ staff participated in our first Home Base Week (HBW) of 2016, and to practice making learning spaces transparent, we want to share the learning, leading, and family celebrations from that gathering with you, our extended CTQ family and community. 

HBW is a chance for CTQ staff to examine how our current practices and projects meet our mission: to advance teacher leadership across the country. Remote staff from California, Colorado, Alabama, and Pennsylvania flew into Carborro while Ann and Barnett took a break from their cross-country travels to learn and lead at home. Have you "met" the CTQ staff team? If not, head here for an introduction. They are one support structure for the greater CTQ community of teacher leaders as bloggers, VCO's, teacherpreneurs, and all-around educator rock stars. 

Before meeting for HBW, CTQ staff participated in a book study using Tom Rath's Strengths Finder 2.0. Then, designer extraordinaire Andie Rea visually mapped staff strengths and printed a poster that served as a reference throughout collaborative work. When building project teams, staff were mindful of people's individual strengths and aware of any gaps in their collective strengths. More than once, someone would lovingly point out that Ann's "command" was coming through or Amy's "execution" was keeping their work on task! 

If you've been a part of CTQ's community for any length of time, you know we LOVE words. We love inventing them (hello: "teacherpreneur," "hopetimistic," and "Collaboratory"). We also appreciate discussing how these words guide our community practice. Throughout the week, staff collaborated on the CTQ lexicon to clearly define words whose meanings have evolved as the educational landscape has shifted and changed. 

CTQ strives to be an organization of innovation. Our website states that we value "sharing innovative ideas—and bringing them to life." How do CTQ staff model this? One way is through trying new things that push us to further the work of teacher leadership, practice authentic collaboration, and put ideas into action. This HBW, we tried a process called "FedEx day."

The day opened with a session led by Lori Nazareno, who taught and modeled the design thinking process. We learned as she shared lessons learned through working with teachers in design-thinking workshops. After that morning's session, Alesha Daugherty introduced the FedEx day project, which incorporated aspects of the design thinking process and allowed us to practice our learning from the morning. The assignment was this: for the next 24 hours, individual staff members would pitch ideas, form self-directed teams around the most highly-voted ideas, and work collaboratively to design a product. Each team HAD to have a product by the end of the 24 hours. Using this structure, CTQ staff participated in our first FedEx day! 



As staff reflected on the FedEx Day experience, we were excited for how it could be repeated and tweaked in future staff brainstorming and work. The experience allowed us to work in cross-pollinated teams and make sense of complex ideas within a short period of time. We also discussed our excitement about implementing these ideas and sharing them with our greater CTQ community for action. In addition to engaging with great ideas, CTQ staff gained a greater appreciation for the talents of our colleagues. The following quotes were taken from the reflection survey and illustrate how FedEx Day had an impact on our understanding of innovative work.

I have a greater appreciation for the value of cross-sections of teams working on projects together.

Innovation isn't rocket science. It just takes TIME.

If we're inviting people to take risks, we must be disciplined in leaving open space for failure.

One team from FedEx Day documented their collaborative process. You will not be surprised to learn that it involved post-it notes, markers, and some dancing.

As we strive to build stronger connections and support for educators in our community, CTQ staff also appreciate building stronger connections with each other. The most recent HBW also held two special celebrations: CEO Barnett Berry's birthday and Keshi Satterwhite's five-year anniversary! To acknowledge both, we spent time enjoying food, laughter, and stories.

You will notice the proliferation of glasses in these pictures. This is because Barnett is notorious for misplacing his glasses. So on his birthday, staff decided to lovingly celebrate this particular quirk by gifting Barnett his own video. Here's a clip so you can be in on the fun!

Keshi is a part of our finance team. Her work has been invaluable both to CTQ staff and the teacher leaders who rely on her for support. Happy five-year anniversary, Keshi! Thank you for keeping the office running smoothly and contracts flowing seamlessly!

CTQ staff connected with each other, tackled difficult tasks together, and were reenergized by the exciting work of supporting teacher leadership. HBW allowed us to refocus on our mission and remind ourselves that an excellent and equitable public education system for all students will not be achieved without a bold brand of leadership from their teachers.  

We care deeply about our work and the teachers and administrators with whom we work and serve.  We run pretty hard—and we have fun doing so!

1 Comment

Jessica Cuthbertson commented on March 16, 2016 at 10:40pm:

Adults and Play

Thanks for sharing! I appreciated seeing adults (especially ones I know, love, and respect :) at play perhaps most of all -- our work in education is important and high stakes -- serving students and improving teacher practice is no small task -- scalling teacher leadership in authentic ways can feel daunting --  and because of the nature of the passion and energy needed in this work I think it's easy sometimes to forget that FUN and PLAY also make the work work :). 

So this was a great model of adults at play...and I am troubled that we even need a model of play as adults?! (Though I think in many places we do!) My wondering is -- how do we make sure fun and play penetrate our schools and the work we do? Similar to CTQ, I see some fun and play (and LOTS of design thinking because you know, that's the trendy thing to do ;) happening in my district. The cruel irony? This fun, playful, creative design work is happening at the highest levels of the hierarchy....far removed from classroom teachers and even farther from students. #Truth

So - how do we make "home base week" like experiences go viral in our classrooms and schools? How do we shift cultures so that those doing the deep teaching and learning in our system also do the designing? How do we encourage birthday celebrations where the CAO and teachers both get a piece of the (literal and figurative) cake? ;) 

Okay, that's a big question so I'll float one that's more reasonable for CTQ staff to model and spread--how do we infuse home base like experiences like the ones showcased in this post throughout the Collaboratory/virtual communities and charge our CTQ network at large to model these values of play, creativity, and strengths-based design? 

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