Foreshadowing Progress in a School Culture

Foreshadowing is a key to good communication about institutional change. In a period of accelerated progress in a school, leadership must find ways to foreshadow what is coming. Communicating after the fact is not enough, as it can make strategic steps look like reactive ones. By giving community members glimpses of what may lie ahead, schools can:

  • Gauge the potential response to changes that may occur.
  • Begin to create partnerships necessary to successful implementation of strategic steps.
  • Position the change initiative to be transparent. Even the best idea can fail if constituents feel as if it has landed without warning at the very moment when momentum is necessary for implementation.
  • Position conversations regarding the change to be inclusive while defining the boundaries of the conversation.  By foreshadowing, the institution can name the goals and create the context for the discussion to follow without disenfranchising important voices in the conversation.
I believe schools have traditionally had difficulty with foreshadowing successfully because such disclosure forces a dialogue about an initiative before the school leadership knows exactly what it will look like as an end-product. This can feel, and in some cases may be, risky; however, without this step, getting requisite support for change may be impossible and thus represent a far greater risk.

At my school we are on the eve of an exciting, yet complex, conversation about schedule. The new schedule will need to do two things at a minimum: a) improve student experience and balance, and b) better align the daily academic schedule with the strategic direction of the school (I have written about priorities in a change initiative before here). While I do not know what the schedule will look like, I do know that staying with the old schedule is not a long-term option. By foreshadowing, we invite constituents to the table, while making it clear that standing still and allowing the status quo to hold is off the table.

6 thoughts on “Foreshadowing Progress in a School Culture

  1. Bill Brown March 11, 2012 / 9:53 pm

    Fine follow-up to your previous post about modeling and risk-taking. You are writing a prescription for courageous, compassionate and competent leadership.

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