My one hope for schools is contributive learning––that students will all develop self-understanding, knowledge, competency, and lasting connections and, in so doing, add to the world. I’ve been on its trail throughout my career, and I’ve never met anyone opposed to its outcomes. We all want our kids to feel meaning and fulfillment. But I also have never set foot in a place where I haven’t heard,

“Yes, that’s what we want, and it’s what our kids need, but we’re stuck in THE SYSTEM––we can’t have the one without changing the other.”

But then, still, we see outcomes change. School communities commit to contributive learning, and their members find meaning and add to the world.

So, are they wrong? Does the system not matter? Are schools wrong to say that it has to be changed?

Emphatically, no––schools have it right. Contributive learning demands system change. You can’t have the one without changing the other.

I’ve chased that elusive idea as well––“the system” and all that it’s come to embody––with all kinds of schools and all over the world. And, at the moment we finally corral it, when we lift off its mask we reveal . . . ourselves. What changes are people, and that is enough.

It’s not hard to see why this gets overlooked. For many, the system just is––end of story. It’s out there, external, and acting upon us. It dictates what happens and how we behave.

But, in reality, we’re more active players. The system’s what we do, what we think, who we are––we, in reality, act upon it. So, when we change, the system does, too.

System change is people change––that is the story. And if you want change to happen, it starts with a Change Team. Form up a team at any level of the school system (be it a school, a school district, or elsewhere), and then, with your Change Team,

  1. Start with YourselvesWho are we, really?
    Start off by getting to know who you are and investing in the well-being of the people around you.
  2. Pinpoint Your PurposeWhy are we here?
    What is our purpose as educators, as a school, as learners and people, and as a community?
  3. Dive into Outcomes – What do we want?
    Examine the outcomes of contributive learning––self-understanding, knowledge, competency, and connection––and think about how you can bring them to life.
  4. Plot Your PositionWhere are we now?
    Be honest and open about your current position in relation to each of the outcomes you want, and think about what you can do to improve.
  5. Commit to ContributionAre we ready to commit?
    If contributive learning is what you want for your students, make the commitment, and then make the change.

These first five phases of the Change Team Experience guide school communities to contributive learning. So the next time you feel that the weight of the system is holding you back from what you want for your students, look to the Change Team Experience for questions, join up with others, and start with yourselves.