On the side of moving the bells forward, this quote stood out as our favourite:
"Dude, bro this bell time is sick!"
On the side of continuing on with what we have now:
"The bells are fine the way they are. Chemainus can videoconference with somebody else!"
Most comments were quite thoughtful and focused on things they value, whether it be sleeping a bit more, or keeping precious after school time for play or work. In the end, the later start did not really resonate with kids, and about 60% preferred to keep things as they are. Next came the parent poll, and though the return rate was only about 7%, it echoed this same sentiment with roughly 66% preferring to stay the same. The staff, as expected, supported the learning community in the actual vote and decided against changing the bells by the same margin. This has left me with a serious epiphany.
*Apparently people aren't that interested in research.
Wow. I know. Crazy, right? It turns out that personal experience really does trump what the experts and researchers tell us most of the time. This also brings me to some other thoughts about leadership. You probably noticed the mention of a staff vote and wondered if this was the normal way of doing business at my school. I have to admit that it isn't. Typically, most decisions are discussed in staff meetings, then if need be, discussed again with the department heads before I make the final call as principal. This generally works quite well, and I know that if I can't at least get the department heads on board I am probably well advised to rethink my position. I am also pretty sure that if I had every major proposal I brought forward in the last four years subjected to the litmus test of a student/parent poll followed by a straight staff vote like the one we just had, most would not have made it past the planning stage and our achievement profile would still look a lot like it did before I got here. ("Would you prefer a full-day for Recreation Day or just the afternoon with regular classes in the am?" Hmmm.) Communication and input are really important, but straight democracy can be limiting in regard to school improvement. Directions backed by expert opinion and research applied with judicious use of those "soft skills" will tend to get you farther in most cases.
I think buy-in occurs on a continuum in any organization, and if people who are really keen are able to move forward with change while the others do as much as they wish to but don't actively block, you can get reasonable momentum occurring. Positive signs, or "wins" as Kotter calls them, will then encourage others to join in, and if you stick with an idea and support it well enough, you can make some real progress. Having everyone on board for a major change right from the start would be fantastic, but because of human nature, it doesn't happen all that often, and that's okay.
One of the reasons I went with a staff vote on the later start is that I won't be here at the school next year, and I thought it would be unreasonable to impose something that I wouldn't be around to experience or support. Most would agree that was an appropriate way to resolve the conversation under the circumstances. Hopefully the idea will emerge again one day, and the next advocate for a later start will do a better job selling the idea than I did! I have enjoyed my time here "at Lake" very much and I have learned many lessons which I hope to use in the future, and more importantly, I made many great friends whom I will miss very much. Sometimes it takes knowing you are leaving before you really take stock in what you have gained from an experience. This last statement is based entirely on my own perceptions, by the way. Apparently, I'm not that interested in the research.
*Click here to read this short blog entry by David Wees on why people tend to ignore research.