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capturing a view of the elephant

October 9, 2012
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Reflective afterword:
As a classroom teacher conceiving a Guide to Curriculum Innovation for school leaders desirous of undertaking school improvement proved a challenge. Part of me wanted to enter the blame game and consider the leaders’ roles in generating this fine mess we currently find ourselves in.
Luckily, that urge was ambushed by an inner voice of reason; more often lately, my teacher’s conscience sounds spookily like a Twitter stream whispering good-fairy-wisdom. What a debt of gratitude to the collective conscience of a professional learning network!
I also valued the Storify mode of being-in-complexity; for me, the task I undertook (producing a Guide to Curriculum Innovation) wasn’t something that could be channeled via recommended reading, workshop sessions at uni, or my own half-formed thoughts each night as I dried dishes with my husband, and sustained a monologue which he very patiently listened to.  Thinking about the system which I otherwise describe as an art or work (emotionally dependent, rarely interchangeable) was clearly not enhanced by daily struggles at the Smartboard-face attempting to build tech-capacity, wrestle with the myriad of concerns, or complete marking by the end of third term.
I knew what I felt about curriculum innovation, and I knew that when students tell me I make ideas seem new, fresh or weird, or they say my classes are unconventional and interesting, well that told me I was doing the innovation business in the furnace, oops, frame-of-reference with them, but what does that mean on a school-based level, or to re-imagine at scale within a system? And our education system at that! I clearly needed a bigger lens to capture the elephant without resorting to 7 blind interpretations.
Donella Meadows’ treatise Thinking in Systems A Primer came as a revelation amid the cacophany, and I am very grateful to her supremely polished clarity of expression on a topic that is Mr Magoo befuddlement incarnate. The human body (endocrine system, circulatory system, sympathetic nervous system…), climate change, population explosions, political and economic theory and practice – everything interconnects once you perceive the complexity… whoa!
The behaviour of a system is performance over time – Donella Meadows
Donella was a perspicacious guide-on-the-side steering my elephantine investigation.  Helped also tiptoeing through the mighty footprints of so many footsore pilgrims on the path up ahead.  Heartfelt thanks to one and all – without your immense generosity of intellect and fortitude, I would have been incapable of synthesising the guide posted below.
Selected reference:
Meadows, D. (2009). Thinking in systems a primer.  London: Earthscan.
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