Let’s Choose to See the Bright Spots

This post was written by Round Rock ISD Chief of Teaching & Learning, Mandy Estes. Connect with Mandy on Twitter to continue the conversation.

Spring is in the air and bluebonnets are beginning to make their annual appearance along our Texas highways.  Each year as the landscape around us explodes into a wild cacophony of color, I am reminded of how one woman’s advocacy for beautifying our highways continues to touch lives some 50+ years later. Ladybird Johnson once said, “Where flowers bloom, so does hope.”  I agree. As Austinites shift their focus away from the grayness of winter towards the beauty of our Texas wildflowers, hope returns.

It’s amazing how shifting one’s focus can completely change one’s perspective.

In a recent Holdsworth Center session, our team had the opportunity to work with Chip Heath, co-author of the best-selling book Switch. In Switch, Chip and Dan Heath describe numerous examples of successful real-life change efforts. At the conclusion of our time with Chip, I asked him which of the narratives was, for him, the most powerful example of change.  He quickly cited an example from the book and stated that it is important to “focus on the bright spots” – or where things were going well – as these bright spots often contain the answers for large-scale improvement.  

This is a powerful concept for educators.  In a well-intentioned effort to solve complex problems, our attention is often drawn to what’s not going well.  And right now, we have plenty of problems on which to focus…school finance, violence in schools, divisive rhetoric…the list goes on.  But I wonder what might happen if we shifted the narrative by collectively focusing our energy and attention on cultivating bright spots?

Wildflowers bloom for a short time each year. When they’re gone, what will you choose to see?  The grayness of winter, the traffic jams on I35, the billboards, and the graffiti? Or will you recognize what’s going well, study it, and replicate it?  

As we finish the final 10 weeks of the year my hope is that in Round Rock ISD we will celebrate our successes and use the lessons learned as catalysts for improvement in 2018-19. I’d love to hear about the bright spots you envision cultivating in your work!  Share them with me at mandy_estes@roundrockisd or on Twitter @MandyRRISD.

Thanks for reading!