Reposting this today in honor of Dr. King:
I am grateful for the reminder in church this morning of the powerful words that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. shared in his last speech, “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop” on April 3rd, 1968. His inspiration, support, and leadership lives far beyond the generation of people who knew him, and our world is much changed for the better as a result of his work. I believe the greatest leaders articulate thoughts in a manner that resonate across many generations, peoples, and circumstances, and today King’s message of hope – in an incredibly difficult time – has a special ring for me. In this speech he shares his desire to be in that place, at that time, to face those difficult issues even if given the opportunity to be anywhere else.
This Ted Talk video strikes close to home for a guy serving the public as a leader in public education. How many of our students fall victim to this kind of bias in our schools and our economy? How might we intentionally value the strengths that introverted students, staff, and community members bring to our work each day?
Thanks to Susan Cain for sharing her wisdom in her newest release: Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking.
Knowledge Works has published an updated version of the 2020 Forecast! This brief PDF document is packed with 21st century vision and sends my mind spinning into panic mode when I start thinking about the changes certain to impact how public schools do business today (and have for the past 100 years…). A few deep breaths later (to re-grip and gather some perspective) leads to excitement and a sense of empowerment. Not even our most seasoned elders leading districts today have witnessed a time with so many drivers of change aligned to create the perfect storm that is present today. Indeed it is both a blessing and a curse. Leading through difficult times of transition requires… well… the heroic leadership that creates stories of heroism. If you don’t think this is such a time, take a spin through the 2020 Forecast, subtract 2011 from 2020, and reflect on what how the changes described will play out in the number of years you came up with. That’s no day on the beach for a leader of public education… Read more
How do we create real, meaningful dialogue about issues instead of screaming sound bites at each other and making each other out to be people who somehow don’t care? We all are people who care about people. Why can’t we assume positive intent?
Educators go to work everyday to help kids. Can we be part of a real dialogue about how to align economic decisions to the core values of our country — instead of beating each other up publicly?
I frequently have conversations with people who are unaware or unwilling to recognize the earth shattering power of web 2.0. 150 years of industrial era living has led many people to believe that the rhythms of this time period will simply continue on forever and deep, fundamental changes in how people think, act, and behave is simply unrealistic. If this describes you, turn on your television or look up your favorite news site today.
This Ted Talks video caught my attention today as I was preparing for a presentation to our local Rotary organization. I ran acrossed it on the Future of Education blog in a post called “Collective Impact.” The premise of the presentation lines up with the concepts outlined in the 2020 Forcast and the development of networked learning grids that provide students with many learning opportunities within the greater community. It’s a fascinating take on how public education may be on the move out of brick and mortar buildings and into the communities we serve… Read more
Thanks to Virginia superintendent and fellow blogger Pam Moran, I ran across this thoughtful post regarding 21st century economics and just how different it is from the 20th century. I have reflected on this topic in earlier posts referencing Alvin Toffler and his theories outlined in The Third Wave. This recent post from Digital Tonto raises several challenging questions for leaders in education…
Tim O’Reilly, long a fixture in Silicon Valley, likes to talk about perpetual beta. The idea is that products should be constantly updated. As an example, Google’s Gmail was in “beta” until 2009, five years after it was launched. In other words, it had already become the most popular service on the planet and still wasn’t considered finished!
Have we embraced functioning in "perpetual beta" in the classrooms of America? It seems embracing this paradigm would require more teacher time spent analyzing the quality of instruction and working collaboratively to update and improve pedagogy, content, and connections with individual students. While we may want our teachers to do this, are we creating enough time for this kind of work in the assembly line framework of current job assignments? Just when is this kind of collaborative reflection supposed to happen?
In the information age, the only knowledge that is truly hard to come by is tacit knowledge. That comes with direct experience and is acquired more frequently by employees than managers. Therefore, senior executives often need to be comfortable being the dumbest guy in the room, not the smartest… Being smart requires refinement. Having the courage to be dumb takes passion.
Do we have the passion and the structures in place necessary to tap the tacit knowledge of our educators? In other words, are we comfortable being the dumbest guy in the room? The reality of serving as an education leader is much like conducting an orchestra… the conductor doesn't make a sound. What matters is how the musicians are playing their instruments and in education, what matters is the quality of the magic – the learning - created by each individual teacher. Pretty forms, glitzy power points, and rousing speeches matter not at the end of the year when students have not learned what they should have. Only through planned collaboration within a structure that pushes that wisdom up towards district policies and practices can we indeed tap the incredible wisdom that lies within our own ranks.
As I wrote before, great progress is made not by discovering new facts, but by reordering existing ones. The iPhone wasn’t a triumph of technology, but of usability and design… Work in the industrial age was largely made up of repeating the same tasks over and over again and managers strived to enforce standard procedures and ensure efficiency. The new economy is much more focused on how ideas interact. Value is created when people are inspired to do things differently (repetitive tasks are increasingly done by robots).
How much energy are we wasting trying to discover new magical methods for teaching and learning? This dynamic has played out all too often in public education as "new silver bullet" after staff development idea has passed through the rank and file resulting in resistance to change and apathy for growing collaboratively as a true learning community. Indeed there have been significant changes in our culture over the past 25 years, however at the end of the day, great teachers have and always will be great teachers. The core principles of differentiating instruction, working as a learning community, and pursuing Greatness have been around since the one-room school house. Science and technology have certainly advanced our ability to execute on the principles of great teaching, but truly great teachers are leading that charge. Greatness in education is not about discovering a new theory or concept – it's about looking at the current research and applying it with fidelity in every school and classroom. That's it. No bells and whistles.
I don’t mean to imply that nobody was passionate about their work before, or that efficiency has become completely irrelevant. However, a difference in degree eventually becomes a difference in kind. The basic elements for what makes a company successful today have changed considerably.
Creating and disseminating ideas through bits, constantly and continually improving products and getting people with diverse skills to work effectively toward a common goal requires inspiring and focusing passion more than anything else. Therefore, it shouldn’t be surprising that new principles are emerging for how businesses need to be run.
Finally, are we investing appropriate resources on getting the passions of educators and our greater communities focused on the common goal of making sure every student is post-secondary ready? The question is no longer about how to efficiently move students in groups of 30 down the assembly line of teachers waiting to spew their wisdom. It is now about how to channel the talents and skill sets of every individual on the "education team" to best help each individual student achieve his/her goals. Repetitive, unaligned 49 minute classes are most certainly not the best option for accomplishing this… So then what? How should school look?
If starting with a blank canvas, how would school look if it reflected a clear focus on ensuring every student reached his/her goals by tapping the diverse talents and skill sets in our schools and communities??
Thanks to fellow administrator and blogger / high school director Dave Meister, I ran across this RSA Animate presentation called "Changing Education Paradigms." It happens to line up beautifully with a meeting I had recently in which I was told that several teachers in ISD 191 did not like what I had to say in a recent post called "Our Future Experts of Standing in Line." In response to that feedback, I'd like to offer this intriguing animate video and a couple of thoughts:
First… I believe every one of us in education heads to work each day seeking to do what is right for kids. Put simply - we are all on the same team. We all believe in the importance of education and we all work extremely hard to deliver on that calling. This isn't about who is right and who is wrong – it's about getting real about how to best deliver on our mission. That is something we should all be able to rally for collaboratively.
Second – delivering on our mission with excellence requires creating a "Culture of Greatness" in ISD 191. This means creating an environment in which rigorous debate about what is right is valued and cultivated, an environment in which disciplined people practice disciplined thought and action, and an environment in which the brand of our organization is palpable in every classroom of every building. If raising a few questions about the realities of 2010 is not ok, then we certainly don't have an environment that welcomes good debate. So… rather than take shots, please jump in and join the discussions! I certainly don't have all of the answers about how to best deliver on our mission – but I believe the staff in 191 has them if we put our heads together!! Handling some shots is part of this job, but I am more interested in what you all think about how to move forward. Your wisdom is needed and valued so please jump in!
This educator is committed to improving public education. That does NOT assume those in public education have done something wrong or are bad people. In fact, I have chosen this career largely because of the wonderful people in public education. Most are heros to particular individual students… If others can have rigorous debate about how to make money, politics, how to sell more product, etc… we can certainly have thick enough skin to debate about how to best deliver on the important job of educating children. We simply cannot afford to avoid this debate – it's kids at stake here…
Please watch this animate and offer your thoughts as a comment to this post. Times have changed and we need to respond… yes WE. We are public education… Teachers, EAs, clerical staff, administrators, bus drivers, cooks, custodians, etc… Together we will - we must – come up with the best answers. What are your thoughts? How should we be changing what we do to best deliver on the mission of preparing students for the 21st century??
In this Ted Talks presentation, Scott McLeod shares his thoughts on education in the 21st century with the American School of Bombay. He facilitates meaningful conversations on many fronts including his popular blog Dangerously Irrelevant. The background information and arguments put on the table in this presentation line up with some of my c0mments about Alvin Toffler's work in a post several months ago. His presentation drives home a couple of key questions:
- What is our moral imperative to create school environments that prepare students for the next 50 years rather than the last 50 years?
- How brave do we need to be to make this happen (not tweaking the status quo, but inventing the new paradigm)?
The factory model of public education has to die – the sooner the better. On a recent tour of our district's ELL program, I had the golden opportunity to walk through multiple buildings over two days looking through the same lens. This is golden for a few reasons – it disciplines me to be in buildings, it allows for a better understanding of how a district program is being implemented across the district, and it allows me to see many teachers delivering instruction in a short period of time. While I was there to observe the ELL classrooms in action, I couldn't resist the urge to step into every classroom that had an open door. At the end of the tour I had briefly observed no less than 70 classrooms in action. My conclusion was the same as it has been in every school I have worked…
Years ago I served as the head coach of a high school varsity soccer team. The position included building feeder programs, and I quickly found myself running summer camps for kids of all ages. The first 10 minutes of a soccer camp for elementary aged kids taught me a key lesson that I have never forgotten: little kids need to be engaged in productive doing – or their doing will be counter-productive! Because I'm not the quickest learner, it took me a while to translate this to the varsity level, but eventually I did figure it out. The outcome results of my practices (how well our team played at game time) depended on clarity of focus on the objectives, viewing every minute as gold, and on how many touches each player had on the ball. I figured out that drills in small groups resulted in more touches than one or two lines. I figured out that pre-teaching some group leaders before practice (or after practice the day before) resulted in a crisper drill that wasted fewer precious minutes. I figured out that players could easily translate concepts from small group games into the full field so I really didn't need to do full field practice much at all – resulting in more touches. I figured out that routine drills focused on core concepts and skills made for efficient warm ups, cool downs, and transitions since they didn't require any explanation once they were routine. I am proud to share that the feeder programs grew and players learned spiralled core skills and concepts through each level resulting in state championships after I had left (yes I prefer to think that it was due to my work with the younger kids – not the arrival of the much more brilliant coach…).
So I said I'm not the quickest learner. Indeed, it took me a few years of teaching and coaching to have the sudden realization that… drum role… all of the strategies I had used to be a better soccer coach applied directly to being a classroom teacher. Small and strategic groups, core
routines for core learning, utilize student leaders, make sure every student has a ball and more touches, eliminate waiting in line, use protocols, keep score in practice, blow the whistle – freeze – now reflect, etc… I realized that every time I asked the class a question expecting one student to raise a hand the other 29 were "waiting in line." My classroom was almost entirely absent of productive doing. Of course I taught high school, so the students were well trained to be compliant by that time and making them wait in line was normal. No doubt the system had weeded the rest out by the time they got to me…
As has been true for a century, my tour of our schools confirms that we continue to produce experts of line waiting. Our students today graduate experts of raising their hand, portraying a fascade of engagement, and well rehearsed - factory like - repetitive behaviors such as filling in blanks, circling T or F, coloring maps, and answering recall questions at the end of textbook sections. The percentage of precious minutes in a school day (about 400) actually
spent touching the ball or "productively doing" is fair at best. The vast majority of those 400 minutes is spent in transition, lunch, classroom start up, review, or practicing one of the factory skills mentioned already. I observed very few engaging in meaningful small group debate, doing academic writing, practicing articulated meta-cognitive strategies to improve reading skills, or synthesizing meaningful strands of content. The students were demonstrating excellent line waiting skills and superb compliance to factory like routines.
If we want line waiting experts, we are delivering on that expectation beautifully. If we want students who research, collaborate, think strategically, and create knowledge, we must reorganize the classroom to practice those skills. Every minute is gold, we need far more touches on the ball, and we need laser sharp focus on objectives – both in process and in content. If we can do this out on the field, isn't it reasonable to think we can do this in the classroom?