Today, school districts are often places where accelerating forces for change clash with strong ties to the past and fear of the new. To navigate the changing landscape that is education, my suburban Chicago elementary school district turned for help to the Appreciative Inquiry concept of the Positive Core. "We have ambitious goals and daunting challenges,” explains Superintendent Dr. Ann Riebock. "By growing our Positive Core, we’ll be better able to tap into our real power.”
We set out to find our Positive Core by holding focus groups to find out from our employees what was working well. We weren’t sure what to expect from the groups or what we’d end up doing with the results, but we believed that good would come of the process and had confidence we’d be able to figure it out as we went along.
Focus group participants said they loved having time set aside to be positive and gripe-free with their colleagues, and their feedback was strikingly consistent: a desire to raise the bar, to be leaders in education, to have high expectations, to embrace change and to make a difference for students. A writing team used the feedback to draft a Positive Core Statement depicting us "when we are at our best.”
We were surprised at the enthusiasm of the focus groups and thrilled with the power and authenticity of the resulting Positive Core statement. If we can keep our focus on our Positive Core despite the press of daily work, we know we’ll grow the resilience and positive energy we need to head confidently and optimistically into an uncharted and ever-changing future.