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Waking the Sleeping Giant in Our Schools

By Shera Carter Sackey

Recently I was reading the book, Think and Grow Rich, by Napoleon Hill. Hill was commissioned by Andrew Carnegie to find a success formula that could be used by the average person. First published in 1937, his interviews of 500 millionaires included such notables as Woodrow Wilson, Henry Ford, Thomas Edison, and Alexander Graham Bell, which he compiled into this great work.

Just as "average" people are looking to do extraordinary things, ordinary schools are being asked to do extraordinary things. One of the ways in which we can accomplish so much with so little is through the collective strength, intelligence, ingenuity, and resourcefulness of the professionals in our buildings.

As a Learning Forward Learning School Alliance facilitator, I have had the opportunity to work with various schools both nationally and internationally. The schools that are the most successful are those that have learned how to activate their collective power.

In the words of Napoleon Hill, plans are useless without sufficient power to translate them into action. Where does that power come from? That power comes from the proverbial "sleeping giant" of untapped potential and genius in our buildings, that when organized effectively is a professional learning community. On a team having the title of professional learning community and actually being a professional learning community where trust exists, there is a spirit of collective inquiry, and ongoing learning and collaboration is what makes the difference between success and progress.

Many school leaders and teacher leaders in the Learning School Alliance have mastered the art of shared leadership and transparency. They recognize that their power doesn't lie within the leadership title but through the "organized and intelligently directed knowledge" of the various teams within that organization. It is organized effort, sufficient to enable individuals to translate their desire (goals) into tangible results (increased student outcomes).

In the LSA journey, we often tell participants that what you put into it is what you will get out of it. The schools that recognize the power of connection are incredibly courageous. It is courageous to stand in the face of shrinking budgets, increased class sizes, and expanding mandates, and recognize that together we are better and that we have the ability to activate our collective power. They are courageous because although they are incredibly busy, they honor their commitment of strengthening the larger LSA professional learning community and transferring that knowledge into the everyday practice into their buildings. They are courageous for highlighting their problems of practice and being open to feedback. They take a personal and professional risk of being vulnerable in front of others, yet they continue to push past their fear for the sake of the students they serve.

Shera Carter Sackey is a Learning School Alliance facilitator and the founder of the Educational Empowerment Zone.

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