Building a school from the inside out

Sorry for the lack of posts these last two weeks. Been traveling and writing proposals.

We decided to start the Workshop small so we could really focus on the work of teaching and learning. That has really paid off in two ways. First, focusing on the work – what everyone on the building is doing at any given time, and why they are doing it – has really gone a long way toward creating the culture. Before we opened, we talked with a former student of mine who is an expert in organizational culture. Don’t think about what you want the culture to be, he advised. Think about what you want it to do. Focusing on the work has implicitly helped us concentrate on the doing part of culture; what we are as a community has been shaped around that.

Second, keeping the focus on the work has allowed us to design the tools and processes we need to directly support that work. To be sure, there are some things that we had planned from the beginning. But even those have evolved, and some of the most important tools we use today – like daily logs to identify goals and reflect on progress – have been built and tinkered with as the work has unfolded. Most of these things are simple. But more importantly, they are designed to suit the specific needs of our work.

We get asked a lot about how we will expand our work, or “go to scale,” in policy speak. The first lesson I think we’ve learned is that the work matters most. Start there, and build the school from the inside out.