Monday, June 11, 2007

Philosophy for sale

Scott McLeod's spate of posts which he put under the umbrella term of "Change Week," really kicked over a hornet's nest in my shrubbery, so to speak. If any of you are like me, the really huge problems in life, I tend to avoid, and the really big ideas I usually tend to share them with more connected people. Recently, however, I feel that this is changing within me, and I want to reel in these bigger fish while I am at the helm. This is in no way a power trip, but I feel that I am able to work toward greater goals at this point in my life.

The schools I work in, up until about three years ago, fit the description of School 1.0 perfectly. With some diligent work and some innovative teachers, that all began to change, and more and more resources are becoming available for teachers to change the way they approach their teaching. In beginning to use some of the recommended tools that Scott talked about in his posts, I realize that we are in the middle of a philosophical shift, and need to be guided through to the end. That is where I come in. I am an agent of change. Sounds all cloak-and-dagger, and I dig it.

Looking at the big picture is daunting: we have major reconstruction going on, and we have a lot of trust to gain back after a year of spotty network coverage and unreliable, often aging machines. To allow this to remain a setback, and not spring over it would be simple; I have a core group of teachers that religiously take the classes I offer and implement some great strategies in the classroom. However, I have to look at this differently--according the improved, big-game hunter version of myself, this is something I must see through.

That's not to say that the obstacles of mistrust and physical space will be overcome next year, or even the year after. They may not be. That core group of teachers, my agent provocateurs, if you will, will go a long way towards tipping the scales in favor of philosophical change.

One thing did strike me as notable in one of Scott's posts. Scott, pulling from their 2005 Phi Delta Kappan article, Can Schools Improve?, Christensen, Aaron, & Clark speak about changing current public education systems, quotes:

Our current system is . . . incapable of changing itself. Most people know – even if they are loath to admit it – that it’s easier to start from scratch than to try to salvage what’s already there. We may wish otherwise, but we ought not to be wishful thinkers. Systemic, transformational change in public education can only happen if we are willing to start from scratch.

At this point, I am going to refuse to buy into this one. That may be my naivete, and although it is waning, my youthful optimism still weighs in fairly heavily that effective and inspirational leadership coupled with sound pedagogy and goal-setting can bring about a shift in how schools and all members of the school community view themselves.


Pete Reilly said...


The quote from Kappan is just a "belief" that some people hold. A belief is neither true nor false, it is someone's opinion...generally based on what has happened in the past.

Using the past as the predictor of the future seems logical; but it diminishes the greatness that lies within each of us.

Think about the Civil Rights movement, most people would have said, "No way, the country is not going to change." Martin Luther King, Rosa Parks, and many others proceeded to change everything. The US, is a very different place today than it was then.

By choosing to be "the big game huner version" of yourself, you are taking a huge step towards changing education for the better. Modeling that for others, gives them the permission, courage, and inspiration they need to have them be bigger versions of themselves, too.

Being your bigger self is a major challenge on the leadership journey!


Patrick Higgins said...

Thanks for the vote of confidence, Pete.

Stepping out of the classroom this year and working with a larger group of people has taught me some valuable lessons about the basic tenets of change. Mostly, people do not like change unless they discover it for themselves and they see value in it. Right there is the biggest problem I face on a daily basis, and it's also the best thing I can try to figure out.

This summer will be a great opportunity for me to recharge and come back anew with more ideas and strategies for instituting change within the buildings I work in.