Last week, our Leadership Team, along with members of the Strategy Task Force, the School Board and the Foundation Board, all met for a day long retreat. We had a great speaker (Tim Fish, Chief Innovation Officer with NAIS, and author of On the Innovation Journey) and a great facilitator (Susan Wright, who already lead our Joint Governance Review process, so she knows our community well). In addition to the usual small group discussions and yellow sticky notes (Can you do strategy without them these days?!) we completed a pyramid with the base being areas we want to match, the middle being areas we want to differentiate, and the top being area(s) we want to lead.
I just love that question – where do we want to lead?
I am reminded of the story of the famous artist who created a sculpture of a beautiful horse. Someone asked the sculptor: “How did you create such a beautiful horse?” The sculptor replied: “It was simple… I took away everything that wasn’t a horse.”
As we go through this strategic plan process, I cannot help but think that we are working away at creating a beautiful sculpture as our core is already within us if we keep researching, thinking, talking and listening.
Later on in the week, after listening to another outstanding chapel speech, I wondered if those moments in chapel might be it.
In chapel talks, we give our students permission to be and express themselves. We have already seen a wide range of topics, and while each follows a bit of a pattern, each is wildly different. I think Tim Rutherford summed it up best when he commented: all of the speeches were powerful in their own way, just like our students. (We are fortunate to have a CFO who is also completely student-centred!)
But what makes chapel talks so unique is not just the opportunity for individuals to express feelings, passion, and appreciation for Lakefield and others. What makes our chapel talks so powerful is that there is a history of authenticity in a caring community. This kind of acceptance among teenagers is not easy to achieve; but once teens feel it, they feel the freedom to express their most true selves.
One student captured it this way – a lot of the courage I’ve racked up to be able to share my story comes from watching others before me share their stories and emotions.
Creating an emotionally safe place for teenagers, where they can share their most profound experiences and explain what they have learned and how they have grown, is powerful stuff. Schools with dedicated resources can develop great arts, athletics and academic programs. What is far more elusive, even with significant investment, is the feeling part.
It is still early days with our strategy process, and we will be doing focus groups and research teams and more analysis of our findings to date, but we are chipping away, and we are excited to discover our very own beautiful horse.