After many years of yearning, contemplation, procrastination and finally determination, I did it. I took the plunge and started my doctoral program.  On the first day, in my first class, I was assigned to a team and given  the following scenario:

You are a team tasked with helping the local urban school system and higher ed institution strengthen and expand their K12/HE partnerships. Your group must recommend how to prioritize the programs by ranking them from 1 (most important, first place to start) to 3 with a rationale for the rankings.

My teammates rather surprised me.  I expected us to be grouped by cohort which would place me in a group with fellow K-12 educators; however, the groups were co-mingled with Higher Ed educators, and the backgrounds of my team members represented various areas of academic interests.  Our team consisted of Member 1-Director at ECPI, Member 2-a recent graduate student, Member 3-a  Communication and Marketing Associate in a Higher Ed, and me, an Assistant Head of School for a PreK-8th grade independent school.

One of the professors moderated our group and broke the ice for us by making introductions, then asking questions and prompting responses. The professor guided the discussion so there was little lag time. If one of us did not respond immediately, she called on a member to speak. Member 1 responded first by saying he would prioritize the principal leadership program because schools cannot exist without leaders. Member 2 suggested that diversity and future leadership should be placed first. I sought clarification about the university residency program since not much background information was given.  As Members 1 & 2 offered their understanding of the program, I noticed that both gave different explanations of what they thought the programs were. We did not receive any further clarification, but after discussing, we came to a mutual agreement on what we thought the program was. After clarifying the scenario, I offered my view that we prioritize the teacher residency program since it satisfied objectives on the K12 side as well as the Higher Ed agenda. The professor then asked the Member 3 if she wanted to weigh in, but she said she was taking in the discussion for the moment and still contemplating.  We continued to discuss the options, and the professor reiterated what she heard us agree upon. We coalesced around the ranking of the teacher program as the first priority, the principalship as the second, and the support for first generation college students as the third.  We did not vote, we simply agreed. Then Member 1 offered to be our spokesman, and no one opposed. We actually all seemed quite relieved.

Member 3 commented less frequently than the rest of the team.  I wondered  if it was because not she did not have direct experience with the elements of the scenario, if she felt uncomfortable with the group, or if she did not have anymore to add to what was already said.  I initially felt uncomfortable with my understanding of the scenario and did not want to comment until I understood it better. The professor was aware of the time constraint and moved the discussion along ensuring that everyone participated.  While she did an excellent job, I wonder how the dynamic might have changed if one of the team members had been asked to moderate.

My takeaway was that I realized each of us had a different perspective based upon our educational area of interest, our understanding of the scenario, and our personality. I entered the discussion with assumptions about  the backgrounds of my teammates. At first, I was unconvinced this discussion would be relevant to a K12 setting, and all would be able to come to a shared view.  However, over the course of the exchange, I came to value the varying lenses we each used and could see why initially each of us prioritized the rankings the way we did.  As we talked further and developed a shared understanding of the information and the task given us, we came to agreement, though for some,  it meant letting go of an individual priority in favor of a shared priority. Once I stood back from my own expectations, I was able to let go and appreciate the wider view.

Spreckels Theater, San Diego – Historic …historictheatrephotos.com