Updated: Jan 18, 2022
When I was a little girl, probably beginning around seven years old, my mom would have me organize the Tupperware cupboard in our house. She pulled me aside one day and said, "Carrie, I know how much you like organize things, and I know how much this cupboard is driving me crazy. I need you to organize it, however you want, however you can. And I need you to do it every week."
I'm pretty sure the first thing I felt was a twinge of "Ugh...I don't wanna" like any normal seven-year-old kid, but the annoyance quickly faded when I realized the sheer joy I would feel from completing such a task. My mom was no slouch; she knew what she was doing when she tapped into my inner-organizer drive and requested my assistance. I sat down in the kitchen, at that exact moment, and began the process I'd repeat over and over again, well, basically for the rest of my life.
To start, I completely emptied the cupboard (and in no organized fashion, either). I just pulled everything out and surrounded myself with it all. Next, I took the biggest pieces, matched them to their lids, and set about finding them their homes. The last step was to organize/stack/throw away the small containers or lids--fitting them in where I could, or throwing away items that had no match, no pair, no real purpose. The end product was a neatly organized cupboard full of usable containers (and a smiling, relieved mother).
Starting a district alignment process, or curriculum writing process, is pretty much the same as organizing the Tupperware cupboard. As leaders, the first step is to assess just exactly what we're working with: How much of a mess of things do we have? What's here and not here? Do we have lids for each of these pieces, or are their some containers (ie, programs) we need to get rid of? Does everything truly have a place? Can we find them? Can we use them?
To help you clear your district Tupperware cupboard, I encourage teams to start this work with a process like affinity mapping or the likes. And, an affinity map is a helpful tool to brain dump what exists, but you may not be able to then make the next step of recognizing what needs to exist for alignment.
Here is sample affinity map (we called this initiative fatigue, and we used Jamboard for the activity) made by one of my current district leadership teams:
While the affinity mapping is helpful to 'dump the cupboard' you then need a next step, an organizer with some guideposts about just what types of district pieces you need to consider when building more alignment.
Enter this simple resource--a Similar-to-Identical Questionnaire--to use individually (or with your team) for a simple reflective unpacking of your curriculum or program cupboards.
Interested in other resources on where to start with district alignment practices? Check out my previous posts, "The District Alignment Process" for a free downloadable tool or read, "Similar to Identical: Creating Systems that Cultivate Equitable Practices."
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