From a teacher’s perspective, Ken Robinson’s words in his latest TED talk, How to Escape Education’s Death Valley, are obvious. So why are our education systems often going in the opposite direction? It is because as a system, we are looking at education from the outside in. If we as educational leaders (legislators, policy makers, school boards, administrators) continue to look from the outside in, we will move farther away from what we all want.
The answer lies in shifting the perspective: taking the lens from the observer (outside)…and moving it into the classroom (inside). From there we have possibilities for meaningful investment in terms of time, attention and focus. That investment has the ability to unleash the power of richly educated, motivated, and prepared citizens that go out into our world to create, innovate, and individually bloom in the way only they can.
By changing the perspective, we can reduce the high margin of waste that we tolerate. That waste appears in the form of remedial intervention funding, incarceration costs, alternative schooling, drop-out rates, violence and instability…not to mention the enormous tolerance of waste that we have for the graying down of our population by allowing standardized test scores to dictate the wellbeing of schools. Should all schools, districts, locations…all of them, no matter what their complicating or propelling factors are…should they all really shoot for the middle and call it good? If we shift the focus to inside and look out…and embody and provide district cultures and teacher training that equip and empower educators to create rich classroom environments that in turn inspire and empower students…and shift away from systems that look from the outside in and focus on command and control, we can begin to create the change we all want.
To our policy/directive makers at every level… regularly spend time in the classroom. Pay attention to the conversation among educators online on Twitter, in webinars, on blogs…it is all spelled out and in action all over the country. Work to embody those cultures that stimulate and invest in continual learning on every level.
This process has already begun. Look at what Steve Hargadon, Ben Curran, Neal Wetherbee, Julie Lindsay, Vicki Davis, Lucy Gray, and hundreds of other educators, not to mention all of the classroom teachers that are changing building culture by example ….the list could go on and on with professionally generous educators working out-loud from the inside out. This is a major shift in the past 5-10 years. Major…all from inside. When that is valued as the powerful process it is, and is harnessed by ‘those who decide’, I believe that we will see that a lot of the groundwork and foundation building has been done.
“The real role of leadership in education, and I think it’s true at the national level, the state level, at the school level… is not and should not be command and control. The real role of leadership is climate control. Praising a climate of possibility. If you do that, people will rise to it and achieve things that that you completely did not anticipate and couldn’t have expected.
There’s a wonderful quote from Benjamin Franklin. There are three sorts of people in the world, those who are immovable: the people who don’t get it…they don’t want to get it, and they aren’t going to learn about it. There are people who are movable: people who see the need for change and are prepared to listen to it, and there are people who move: people who make things happen, and if we can encourage more people… that will be a movement, and if the movement is strong enough that’s in the best sense of the word, a revolution. And that’s what we need.”