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It’s Logical

I have been writing a logical framework, or marco lógico in Spanish, for the English Department. This has been, at once, one of the most overwhelming and rewarding experiences I have ever had.

Let me nerd out for a second – I LOVE strategic planning. It is one of the most fun work-related things I can think of. I love imagining all of the moving parts, how they all fit together and brainstorming what I want to do. It’s kind of like a brainteaser, only one that determines the course of my work for the next year. I tend to think of strategic plans like the Holy Grail.

Therefore, I was excited to dive into mine, even though I had only been at Camino Seguro for two weeks when I was given the assignment. It was the first project I was given since starting, and, as you can imagine, it was a lot of pressure. Not only did I have a big project that needed to be finished quickly, but it would reflect the quality of the English program going forward. It was a great chance to prove myself, but it would take a lot to earn back confidence if I didn’t do a good job. And, of course, it all needs to be done in Spanish. No pressure.

There were a few steps to the process. First, came dreaming up the large-scale goals that I want to accomplish in the program over the next year. I gave myself five. In short, they are:

  1. Strengthening and deepening the English language acquisition of all students.
  2. More fully integrating English across programs.
  3. Strengthening the English reward system and enact more consistent expectations of student behavior across programs.
  4. Increase the capacity of the English Department to support English language acquisition of parents and staff.
  5. Create systems for greater program sustainability.

If written sarcasm were more easily conveyed, I might say something like, “I’m going easy on myself.”

Next came the hard part. For each goal, I was charged with writing individual results, objectively verifiable indicators for each result and a means of verification for each indicator. At this point, I had what basically looked like a family tree: each goal sprouting into several results, which grew into indicators, which yielded means. It boils down to me doing a whole lot of assessments and reports over the next year.

Luckily for me, I’ve done program improvement and strategic planning before. I’ve done a whole lot in that regard, as a matter of fact. So, I feel like I’m ready to tackle the challenge head-on. I created a whole program. I can certainly streamline one. The English program is good, it’s that the underlying structures can be improved by creating simplified processes for recurring tasks. So, I’m focusing my year on capacity-building activities, particularly focusing on things that add long-term stability and sustainability to the program. This is the first time in my life I actually feel like I know what I’m doing and I’m not just fumbling through making it up as I go along.

I always thought I was a details person. I realized that I’m a lot better at the big picture stuff than I ever thought I was. I had so much fun dreaming about what I wanted the program to look like and conceptualizing how to make those dreams happen. Thinking up the strategic plan didn’t feel like work. Writing out the steps necessary to achieve those dreams did, however. Someone once told me that you’re a details person until the switch flips, and once you turn into a big picture person you don’t really go back. Maybe I’ve reached that point. I’ve always secretly hoped I could get there, and it feels like a personal victory that I’ve been put to the test and rose to the challenge. I feel like I’ve broken through a barrier.

I have really struggled the past few years to feel like I was having an impact and that my work was changing things for the better. I often felt like I was swimming upstream. But, it seems now that that struggle paid off. Perhaps everyone goes through a phase of feeling like they have no idea what they’re doing. In a lot of ways, I finally feel like I’m coming into my own. I’m supposed to be here to help empower these youth and families, but in many more ways I feel like they’re empowering me. The students, the English Department and I are all growing up together.

This week, I saw peace in the big picture.

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