After attending a presentation at a conference last year, I have been anxiously awaiting the opportunity to try out an idea for professional development called “Fed Ex Day.” The presenter from Liberty High School in Carroll County shared the concept that many schools across the county had implemented over the years, but originated with the 2009 book Drive.
In his book, Daniel Pink discussed an unusual business practice started by Atlassian, an Australian software company. Once a quarter, the company instructs all of its developers to work on anything they want for the next 24 hours with the expectation that each participant “delivers” an overview of the results. The company called these days “Fed-Ex Days” because it worked well with the slogan “when it absolutely, positively has to be there overnight.” (Fed-Ex eventually made them change the name to “Ship-It Days.”)
Some further exploration of Daniel Pink uncovered two great videos that address his message on motivation: a TED talk and an RSA Animate video. In both presentations, Pink suggested that there are three factors that lead to better performance-autonomy, mastery, and purpose.
Using the RSA Animate as an introductory message to staff, we put forth the charge to staff that they would be selecting how they spent their morning of the county professional learning day provided it met two “rules:” 1) they needed to collaborate with at least one other person on a school-related task and 2) they had to share the results of their work (that’s right, Fed Ex delivers).
Given the time to improve their performance (mastery) toward a purpose that they valued and selected themselves (autonomy), staff members came up with outstanding products. Teachers developed common objectives for their yearly evaluation. They came together to develop a standardized rubric for all of the writing assignments in their department. They collaborated on an articulation event for middle school students to attend. There were so many great results that I could spend pages just listing what everyone did.
But the results went beyond just the products the collaborative teams produced. Staff members enjoyed the collegiality developed by working both within their department and sharing their products with other departments. They appreciated the time to work on something they will actually use in their classroom (which if you’ve ever been to training/professional development sessions isn’t always the case). The sharing sessions also reminded us that sometimes the “experts” we can learn from are in our own building.
As we suggested to staff, the Fed Ex Day concept and the emphasis on autonomy, mastery, and purpose isn’t just for staff. Students can also benefit from similar experiences. Some students may need a little more guidance than others, but if we instill in students a sense of purpose then the time they spend on activities like Fed Ex Day, Genius Hour, or even Hawktime will be well spent.
NOTE-Special thanks to assistant principal Jared Wastler from Liberty High School whose presentation and resources helped inspire our professional learning.