Do you remember the "connect the dots" pages we used to work on when we were kids? You know, the ones where you had to search out the consecutive numbers in order to connect each dot to the next. Ultimately, when all of the dots were connected, the bigger picture would reveal itself. Some were relatively simply, with the picture already apparent without having to draw the lines between each dot. But some were far more complex, the bigger picture a mystery until more lines were drawn between the seemingly unrelated points, gradually revealing the completed picture. As a child, I would sometimes get frustrated with the complexity of these more intricate pages, losing my way as I searched out the next "dot". Sometimes I would persist. And sometimes I would give up.
In any large organization or district, we are faced with a similar task...
We are presented with numerous tasks and initiatives which on the surface, may seem unrelated or disconnected. I would argue that our job as school and district leaders is to help to connect the dots for our staff and school communities. We need to help others to see the bigger picture. We also need to ensure that we are taking a close look at any new initiatives that we are developing to see how they align with our "bigger picture". If we don't, we risk that same frustration that I faced as a child. If we want individuals to persist, or better yet, to take ownership of new initiatives, we need to be selective in what we are asking them to do, sometimes functioning more as a filter than a conduit.
This analogy extends to the classroom. As teachers, we need to explicitly connect skills and content to the world beyond the classroom. We need to help our students to see the bigger picture, the relevancy of what they are learning. Again, if students aren't able to see these connections, they can become frustrated by seemingly unrelated tasks. But by "connecting the dots" and providing our students with greater insight into the purpose behind what we are asking them to do, they become partners in their learning, rather than simply passive and compliant participants.
The reality is that some things just need to get done and that not every task or initiative is inherently connected. Sometimes we aren't privy to the bigger picture ourselves. And sometimes we just have to trust that the bigger picture will reveal itself in time... But whenever possible, if we are able to communicate our purpose, our "why" to others, we can avoid some of the frustration and fatigue that can serve as a very real barrier to meaningful growth and innovation.