Reflecting on Year One

Despite the diversity of the people we are working with, we all want one thing - for our staff and teams to genuinely and honestly work together for the betterment of teaching and for the success of all learners.

This past year at Jigsaw Learning has been transformational for me in many ways.

In June of 2018, I retired from my 34 year teaching career, a vocation I found to be complete with highs and lows, as well as many fond memories. Leaving my staff, colleagues and friends was met with smiles and tears, however it presented me with an opportunity to inhale and re-group; not to retire, but to re-fire.

One of the goals that I heralded throughout my career was to be able to affect change and influence others in whatever scope or environment I was working in. It started in my classroom, then continued to grow throughout my career, whether it be working with Division committees, professional organizations, consulting and eventually administration. When Kurtis and Lorna presented me with an opportunity working with Jigsaw Learning that would allow me to expand and support all learners with Collaborative Response Model and all its nuances, my heart fluttered. I knew that this journey would continue to challenge me. I had ‘earned retirement’…..but my soul knew I wasn’t done with education. I didn’t feel that I was ‘finished’, neither with my own learning, nor with the joy and excitement of knowing that I could continue to impact learning by supporting and influencing others.

When asked to reflect on my past year with Jigsaw Learning, it took me a great deal of time to piece together and summarize succinctly what has been one of the most eye-opening and growth opportunities I have had in a long time. Rather than list examples and samples of my experiences, I’ve put together a summary of heart-felt, observations that were prominent over the last year.

  1. Humility was evident with teams and staff in schools who are having the greatest effect on learning using the Collaborative Response Model ( and might I guess, all school initiatives). If teams procrastinated in moving forward with initiatives, including CRM, often its from working from a place of fear. With new initiatives sometimes we are unsure of where to start, or we are afraid to make mistakes and be judged as unsure of what we are doing. Being able to admit to your team that you don’t have all the answers and are relying on them to bring their expertise and their questions and concerns to the table are the essence of what moves us forward - both personally and professionally. Jump in scared.
  2. All leaders, regardless of their capacity, need to believe that they are a guiding force. Progressive leaders are reframing the narrative and restructuring how schools traditionally operate. By adopting the Collaborative Response Model and ensuring fidelity to the process, leaders I have worked with this year have admitted that they are amazed at the results. It’s as if they see their staff as magically being transformed. It is their efforts that create results - a shift in culture, gains in efficacy and models of collaboration. Believe and trust in yourself.Believe and trust in the model. What you are doing is magical. I’ve seen it many times this year.
  3. We are all on a journey, and the road that we take to move forward is dependant on our current culture and narrative at the school. Every school, every culture, and every environment will see change, growth and success by implementing CRM. Dig deep. Stay strong. What is your starting point? Where are your hot spots? How can we help?
  4. Are you as a school leader working in a silo? CRM leadership is not traditional practice. It’s common within the model to hear that some teachers are still working in silos. Here’s a question. Are you open to the possibilities that authentic collaboration will bring? It is messy. Like any new initiative, CRM will bring with it implementation dips, honeymoon data, down-pours and rainbows. Attending Start-Right years ago, a Division leader mentioned something I have never forgotten, “Don’t ask your staff to do anything that you are not already doing..” Lead by walking around. With CRM success, school leaders are definitely out of their silo’s and mucking around in the mire.

This past year, working with the Jigsaw Learning team as well as with school teams I have seen the narrative of school leadership changing. It is not “this or that”, but “what if”?. When my CRM journey began many years ago it was by reflecting on my practice and asking those questions, “what if things were done differently at the school”? “What if we tried a new model?”

How do you envision your future at the school? It was empowering to see this over the past year. Whatever the capacity, we continue to influence and support. We can refire.

Jump in scared. The fall is thrilling. The landing - magical.


Author: Arlene Littlemore