I think almost every educator, if not ever educator in the United States has participated in a protocol at one time or another. And each educator has varying degrees of comfort and understanding when it comes to the use of these protocols. In fact, their feelings and comfort may have changed over time (and I’m one of these folks).
Recently I participated in the tried and true North, South, East, West protocol (featured on the National School Reform Faculty Protocols Page) with a team of educators and it was very helpful and insightful to me. Prior to this meeting I had done this activity as a classroom teacher and I’ll be honest…I remember doing it, but I don’t remember making any personal reflections from it. Now, many years later and in the role of Principal, I see new value and life in it.
When I was participating in this protocol with a team of educators I found:
- “directions” can change between two individuals...as if particular relationships require its members to balance each other. For example, I identified myself as a North as did another member of our group. We realized that often when we are working with each other I’ll take on more of a West role…balancing out the relationship and decisions. This is when I realized one of the powers of this protocol for principals, school leaders or anyone that works with multiple people in a school setting. You can start to understand the relationships you hold with different members of the community and work to improve those standings.
- this protocol may not be as powerful for teams that work together constantly already. True, they will find their direction and may gain an insight or two, but it’s not going to be as powerful as if they are working with people in different roles, that they may or may not understand their relationship with. After our teams participate in this protocol we plan to have the entire staff do a quick “move to your direction” activity at the start of one of our staff meetings.
- protocols and activities like this only work when you are open…open to the experience, open to learning and open to understanding the purpose. Several folks will not take this activity seriously and I can relate and understand; however, if done with open eyes I do sincerely believe it can improve those relationships and ultimately improve our communication, partnerships and outcomes for students.
- that as an administrator I need to be able to understand, work with, and at times, be every single one of the directions. Knowing who is who, and understanding those points can only make me stronger as an administrator and leader.
I highly encourage you to bookmark the National School Reform Faculty Protocol page…nice resource and easy reference for teams.