You might not connect with the following metaphor but it works for me.
I've been running 'competitively' for 50+ years. I don't think a lot about the 'how' of running; I reckon I know how to do it and I just get out and run. If someone asked me to describe how to run I'd have to stop and think because, for me, I just put one foot in front of the other and lean forward. The way I run is habitual and just happens.
I've recently discovered, though, that how I run has become not fit-for-purpose. As I've aged, my non-running muscles have weakened and I've discovered I've developed, unconsciously, a bent over shuffle type gait. Up until now it hasn't been too much of a problem as I shuffle along the roads and trails and accept the increasing and more-early-arriving pain is just part of the game.
However, I now want to run a 100 miler which brings a whole different purpose to why I'm running. This means I need to adopt a different 'how' as I won't make the 100 miles doing what I'm currently doing. The pain will be too much.
So, I've done some research and have adopted a different gait - one that has me running taller and making use of my glutes rather than focusing on my quads and hamstrings. Because this style has not yet become habitual I have to concentrate on my gait almost every single step to prevent myself falling back to old habits.
The new gait brings different issues. Pain and discomfort is emerging in new areas as I transition to a new way of running. I fully expect that things will get better with this. Also, to maintain the gait and the efficiency I expect, I need to do strength and flexibility exercises, especially to my core and in my hip area. I don't have a high level of motivation for this so it is something I need to really commit to and hold myself accountable.
While I'm confident that if I stick to my plans I will gain huge benefit I fully expect there to be problems on the way. I'll develop new niggles and new pains and I'll fall back into bad or previous habits. I have developed strategies to support me to stick to the new path.
I've realised the body was getting a bit creaky. This, along with my new 'why' (100 miler) has meant I need to develop a new 'how' with a new set of principles/guidelines (include strength and flexibility work in my training, be open to changing life-long habits etc), which will result in a different set of practices (the 'what') which I need to work on to become habitual (yoga at home, attend a gym, adopt a particular running technique).
I think sometimes schools are a bit like that. The institution has become a bit creaky while we persist with our habitual practices. This can lead to pain and niggles in the system. In my view, the 'why' of schooling has also changed as our world is changing dramatically with a range of global existential crises such as climate, pandemics, biodiversity reduction, increasing inequity, mis- and dis-information and conflict and issues in relation to AI etc.
We need to engage with these issues and understand our new 'why' and think about how we are going to respond and reposition schools and from there adopt new ways of doing 'schooling'.
The work to reposition schools can seem so daunting that we are tempted to stay with our habitual practices. While it is tough and demanding work it is certainly doable.
I am more and more convinced that how we do this work is to really focus on what it is that we know that creates the conditions for the best teaching and learning that is required today. We need to start with understanding and agreeing on how students learn best. From there we need to develop a set of core beliefs for which we are ready to "die in the ditch" and design our schools based on those core beliefs.
As part of my own professional learning I'm drilling into the work carried out by organisations such as Modern Learners, Centre for Educational Research and Innovation (OECD), Michael Fullan and Chris Leadbetter and their work with the Centre for Strategic Education, Valerie Hannon and her work with the Innovation Unit and Russell Bishop's Teaching/Leading to the North-east.
For the sake of my own country-boy mind I want to hone in on what they are all saying and see if I can make sense of the essence of it all. The aim is to settle on a set of core beliefs that could determine some guiding principles that could drive some different and more appropriate practices which we could try to make habitual.
I hope the outcome could support us when we ponder the questions about how might we lead in our schools. I'll most probably post what I come across.