Professionalize the Profession -> Student Innovators
Imagine a district where teachers are involved in shared decision-making.
Not as ‘advisory committees’ or to ‘give input’, but for real. For this to work, school admin would have to think small as in the classroom, and teachers would have to think big – for the whole school or district. Right there, fertile ground for good decisions. Plus more fun, more interesting all round.
1. The way in which a district is managed is likely to trickle down into the class room. If we want teachers to set up classroom enviornments that embody the needs of 21s C learneners, STEM skills and inovation, then we have to give kids plenty of choice, in other words, real decision-making opportunities. So teachers need to see what that’s like and how to manage it from their own professional lives.
2. What you expect is very often what you get: Treat teachers and staff as full professionals and that’s what you’ll get. (And vice versa in districts where teachers are treated as technicians or worse.)
3. The need for all in the decison-making process to move between big picture and detail means that there will be more appreciation and cooperation between different areas of an organization – custodians and teaching staff, aides, office staff, as well as vertically.
4. The possibility of making meaningful progress toward mutually agreed educational goals, is more likely if all are invested and consulted.
5. Say the top of a top-down organization gets sick, makes a judgement error or suddenly leaves. The whole house of cards is much more likely to collapse. A more networked, collaborative organization has ecological stability, resulting in less stress all the way up and down. Plus the legacy of a great leader will be naturally perpetuated.
6. Less burned out, bitter ‘underlings’ subtly undermining directives (aka bitching, whining and gossiping) – if there are real ways for meaningful input, there is no excuse for this damaging behavior. Problems can be more easily aired and fixed.
What’s needed to get started:
1. Train everyone how to run meetings – shared norms and across-the-organization expectations for PROCESS will help all to participate better as well as have the tools to step up to take some leadership when needed. Train adnim first so they can run efficient and effective meetings and model that for their staff.
2. The expectation that it will take at least a couple of years to move the culture – it’s more work initially for admin to have to consult and involve, rather than just make the decision.
And by the way, not ALL decisions have to be collaborative. How to distinguish? Emergencies, not. Legal/ed code stuff. And gum. For heavens’ sake, let’s not waste more staff time with this! But stuff that seems ‘small’ may not be to the people it affects, so ask. What’s the worst that can happen?
3. It’s more responsibility and more work for teachers and auxilliary staff than just do the job and go home. Not all will want to participate. Start with those who do. Plan to compensate for extra time/work if you really want to support this kind of change.
4. Ego. How to move from the gratifying power of being in charge, to giving up some of that control, both at the top of districts, and most importantly, for teachers in the class room? Giving up some control does not mean chaos, if intelligently managed at both levels. Giving up some control can mean much greater influence in the long term.
5. Accept it’s not going to be perfect the first time. Model making mistakes, learning and moving on. But ‘suck it and see’ as my first boss said. Don’t be frozen while waiting for perfection.
If we want our kids to learn and innovate from their mistakes, we have to have to courage to do that ourselves first.
Imagine a better way of doing business, one classroom, one school, one district at a time. A perfect time for well-situated districts to take leadership in how things could be, and aim higher than great test scores.