This learning path includes five modules, each with a video, tools, and supporting documents. Developed by the California Labor Management Initiative (CA LMI), the modules provide an overview of the CA LMI, introduce three frameworks for labor-management collaboration, and present perspectives from statewide thought leaders and practitioners.
Note: This article was featured in the January 2022 edition of the CCEE Connection. Read it here!
“The shape of leadership that yields the most productive results when we are facing a complex issue is ‘systemic leadership.’ It is very different from hierarchy or from bringing in consultants who purport to “solve” the issue. This set of leadership practices and approaches is built out of three disciplines: chaos and complexity theory; living systems theory; and the theory/practice of tapping the experiential learning of all those involved in the system or organization (collective intelligence).”
Our worldviews are getting disrupted. This is normal of course, as worldviews historically shift over time. Still, disruption is never easy. What I appreciate about the quote above is that it is a succinct summary of years of unearthing I have been doing as a Coordinator of Continuous Improvement at Butte County Office of Education to make sense of the shifts that are happening in education and beyond, surrounding change and improvement efforts.
In rural counties particularly, we wear many hats. One benefit of these multiple hats is that they allow us to make connections among the many initiatives our educational systems are implementing. What’s being revealed currently is a deep synchronicity between social-emotional learning and systems thinking that is able to support an ushering in of a different approach to leadership and change. I will speak to some of those connections below.
An impetus to our shifting worldviews is that we are living in a world of increasing complexity and uncertainty. We have been particularly affected by adversity in Butte County, and not unironically, I have found comfort in learning that there are frameworks for supporting us within that space — a sort of certainty about uncertainty. An internationally lauded sense making framework, Cynefin, is one of them that has been emerging in leadership, equity, improvement, and restorative practice circles these past couple of years and that feels critically important to understand. We are currently exploring a partnership with Sonoma County Office of Education and consultants, Cultivating Leadership, to enhance our “Complexity Fitness” and gain competence with Cynefin.
Along with Cynefin, at a recent presentation regarding Butte’s social-emotional learning (SEL) and mental wellness efforts, I shared a simplified version of a tool, the Two Loops of Systems Change, derived from the Living Systems Theory. I categorized our SEL efforts by how we are stewarding and hospicing (holding and supporting our systems and the people within it) and how we are innovating (pioneering new approaches and connecting via networks and communities of practice). This tool, the Two Loops, and the way we can utilize it to think differently, build awareness, and engage, is a part of new leadership approaches that are emerging. One place we are practicing these as Butte COE, in conjunction with some of our COE and state partners is through the S.L.O.W. Collaborative.
The “how” of many of these emerging leadership practices are being supported from awareness-based or participatory leadership methodologies such as Compassionate Systems and the Art of Hosting. So, what exactly is participatory leadership? This term was new to me a couple of years ago. The Art of Participatory Leadership (AoPL) is deeply rooted in the practice of inquiry.
“We know that there are answers to be had, but even more important are the questions we ask to arrive at those answers. AoPL does not engage in a predesigned set of exercises around current or historical realities, but rather asks questions to help us create a new future together” (Art of Participatory Leadership Workbook).
Participatory Leadership allows us to see ourselves, others, and systems more clearly, while simultaneously fostering both the conditions for learning and the SEL competencies that we desire. Outcomes of participatory practices can include:
Tapping into diverse perspectives
Cultivating leaderful communities and collaboratives
Creating cultures of equity and inclusion
Inspiring deeper levels of trust across partners
Hosting conversations for meaningful action
Exploring mindsets and norms that are keeping harmful/ineffective systems in place
Providing participants with the experience and resources to replicate the practices and tools learned
If this sounds like it is deeply aligned with SEL, equity, systems thinking, and improvement work, it’s because it is. Awareness-based systems methodologies versus traditional, hierarchical, linear, mechanistic interventions are the “how” to complexity or a living system’s “what”. When our worldviews shift, our approaches need to as well.
So let’s talk about the word Transformative and how this connects to systems thinking, complexity, and SEL. I hear the term Transformative a lot and while I understand the desire for something to be “transformative” or leaders to be “transformative”, it has been less clear to me what folks actually mean by that as well as what they are doing that will make something be transformative. So here’s my understanding of it: Transformative change happens when we change ourselves. The current world view shifts are helping us realize we are not standing outside the system and intervening as in a mechanistic model, we are inside it — part of the system; interconnected — as described in complex adaptive or living systems models. Thus, changing ourselves, because of the rich interconnection – changes the system.
“Once we can see that we are not this enduring, consistent, perfect self that we’ve constructed ourselves to be—that we see all the ways in which we don’t show up aligned with our intentions or who we want to be in the world—we start to have compassion for other people and their challenges in doing so. Once we see our complexity, we can see others’ complexity.
– Valerie Livesay
When we hear the term Adult SEL, one of four core focus areas as part of CASEL’s Systemic SEL implementation, many educators have some resistance to prioritizing this. I often hear administrators and teachers brush past this aspect of Systemic SEL and say, “I just want practices to help my students”. Practices to help our students are important, of course, but if we are going to swim “upstream” and change systems in “transformative” ways, we need to look at ourselves. It is evident adults in our society are struggling to cope in healthy ways, to view perspectives outside of their own with equanimity, and to collaborate across boundaries in order to develop solutions to complex challenges. It’s evident adults in our society need to strengthen their SEL competencies. Still, It’s easier, and natural, to think it is them that needs to change, not me or us. And yet we do. We do need time to practice alone and together to see what it is we habitually don’t see – about ourselves, others, our systems. This is why “adult SEL” is vital to all change efforts, regardless of the form of inequity or improvement needed.
We have the ability and power within ourselves to transform our systems through self transformation. According to NHS Horizons, self transformation includes:
Openness to new ideas and perspectives – even those that actively challenge their own
Ease with complexity, ambiguity and change
A resistance to simple answers in complex situations
Comfort with chaos and paradox
The realms of learning about these self-transformative capacities currently fall, I believe, within the realms of social-emotional learning and systems thinking. Systems thinking, to give us the ability to understand and work in complexity, and adult SEL, to give us the tolerance, competence, and capacity to be able to do so. We need to expand our vertical literacy. To close, I’ll share an excerpt from Joanna Macy’s rendition of the prophecy of the Shambhala Warriors that illuminates the importance of SEL and systems thinking: This prophecy discusses great warriors fighting for good during a critical “turning” who have training in the use of two weapons, both in the mind — ”one is compassion and the other is insight into the radical interdependence of all phenomena.”
Sandra Azevedo, Coordinator of Continuous Improvement, Butte County Office of Education
Welcome to the Transforming Education in California landing page! The 2021 Budget Act included significant new funding for TK-12 schools, and the possibilities to transform schools and communities through these investments became the charge. In response, we began a series of webinars in December 2021 aimed at unpacking the three largest initiatives—the Expanded Learning Opportunities Program, Universal Transitional Kindergarten, and the California Community Schools Partnership Program – and identifying strategic places for integration across initiatives to maximize the good work already underway. On this site, you can find those learning experiences and other just in time supports, as you continue the hard and necessary work of transforming education in your systems.
JUST IN TIME SUPPORTS
Links to Recent Announcements (i.e. release of Community Schools RFA)
AB 130 Super Summary
AB 130 Weekly Calls
(space for additional support opportunities, i.e. Universal to Support All Districts)
UPCOMING OPPORTUNITIES – TO GO SEE, LEARN, AND CONNECT
California schools have for years contended with a shortage of fully qualified teachers. While local educational agencies (LEAs) are no strangers to meeting staffing challenges, the pandemic has put more strain on an already stretched workforce. Adding to existing waivers and flexibilities, California has taken extraordinary steps to make it easier to fill substitute vacancies, to create alternatives to high stakes testing that have kept otherwise qualified teachers from completing their credentials, and to provide nearly $1 billion of new investment in the teacher pipeline.
LEAs always have the legal responsibility to staff classrooms with well-prepared, fully credentialed teachers to the full extent possible. As the impacts of the pandemic continue to reverberate through the educator workforce, the following opportunities are available now to help LEAs meet the need for teachers and substitutes.
Short-Term Waivers: Short-Term Waivers allow local agencies to address unanticipated, immediate, short-term (one semester or less) staffing needs by assigning teachers who hold a basic teaching credential in any field to teach outside of their credential authorization, with the teacher’s consent. These waiver types need only be authorized at the local level.
Teaching Permit for Statutory Leave (TPSL): When a teacher takes certain extended statutory leaves of absence, TPSL holders may serve as temporary teacher of record for the entirety of the leave. When more than one acceptable leave is taken consecutively, a TPSL holder may continue to serve as the interim teacher of record for the entire length of those leaves.
Local Assignment Options (LAO): LEAs that are unable to fill a staffing vacancy with the appropriately credentialed teacher for an assignment have the flexibility to use LAOs. Requirements vary by assignment, but most require the teacher to hold a full teaching credential and to consent to the assignment. LAOs cover general education assignments only.
Emergency Substitute Permits: To provide continuity in classrooms and reduce the total number of substitute teachers needed, California temporarily extended the length of time a substitute teacher can serve in the same classroom to 60 days. Normally, general education and career technical education substitutes may serve up to 30 days and education specialist substitutes may serve up to 20 days. This flexibility expires on July 1, 2022.
Testing Flexibilities: Looking ahead, California has begun to rethink the how it can reliably assess a teacher’s knowledge, skills, and abilities, and to expand options to recruit and prepare teachers. Recent statutory changes to the subject matter and basic skills requirements now allow credential seekers to meet these requirements through coursework in addition to existing testing options. Similarly, updates to the Reading Institution Competence Assessment (RICA) will phase out the existing exam and replace it with a performance assessment.
Grant Funding: The state is also investing directly in new teachers with nearly $1 billion in new funding for recruitment and retention grants that do not need to be paid back, for educators who commit to working in some of the highest need classrooms in the state. Together, the Golden State Teacher Grant, Classified School Employee Teacher Grant, and the Teacher Residency Grant aim to credential over 43,000 new teachers in the next five years.