Embrace the Quest

Monty Python and the Holy Grail

I’m a child of the 80’s.  I grew up on a diet of movies like The Goonies, Indiana Jones, The Princess Bride, and The NeverEnding Story.  Spoiler alert – the good guys find the treasure and live to tell about it.

What makes these movies great – and enduring – is not the climax.  The joy is in the quest.  It’s the journey that’s compelling.  It’s the ups and downs, the booby traps, the near-misses and the hard-fought triumphs.

It wasn’t that long ago that I was driving with the Deputy Superintendent back to the District Office from a meeting.  We were discussing the XQ Super School competition that we’ve been engaged in over the past year.  At some point, I declared how intently I wanted to win – to bring the attention and resources to the kids of Santa Ana.  His response was to encourage my pursuit of the goal – but then he cautioned me.  He warned me not to allow my focus on the final goal to cloud my vision around the possibilities that arise while en route.

The vision is always out there.  It keeps us animated and full of purpose.  It draws us in to the struggle where the real learning happens.  If we reach the goal too easily, then it is almost certain that we didn’t set our expectations high enough.  Sometimes we shoot low just to ensure success.

I spent most of my day engaged in a fascinating discussion about how to use principles of gamification to enrich and deepen engagement for professional learning in our district.  It was one of those conversations where just about every five minutes someone on the team had a brilliant “aha” moment.  We needed about four dozen of those to get to where we had something concrete and actionable that we could test.  The ideas were flying, some of them rather silly but most of them rather profound.  Each time we thought we’d settled for a solution, someone else seemed to ratchet up the level of complexity, or discover a hole in our program logic.  We pushed for greater clarity and the outcome kept getting better.

In a true learning organization, there is a healthy recognition that we don’t currently have all of the answers. What we do have is a shared passion for the work and a hunger to learn and make a difference in the lives of students.  While we think it’s the end goal that we’re after, what’s really feeding us is the opportunity to authentically collaborate and learn together.

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