Tag Archives: Ken Robinson

How to Change Education-From the Ground Up.

Great words by Sir Ken Robinson yet again.  He describes what most teachers know: effective change happens from the inside-out…or in his words “from the ground up.” The more we try to control education from the top down, the less we understand that education is about people and individuals. If we don’t fully embrace that, the farther we get from what we all want for our kids. We all have the same goal.

Leadership Focused on Climate Control from the Inside Out

flowering desert

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.”

Ken Robinsons’ entire talk here.

Where Dan Pink, Ken Robinson and Austin Kleon Intersect, True Learning Happens

Passion is Genius

There is an educational concept that I’ve been working with for the past couple years, and it has included several conversations with a creative friend, Adam Wayne. It lies at the intersection of Sir Ken Robinson, Daniel Pink, Austin Kleon, and technology. I’m doing my best to create a classroom structure that supports internal motivation, passion, deep skill acquisition and rigor…all in an effort to teach curriculum. If I have learned nothing else in my years teaching, it’s that an engaged student internalizes, applies meaning, and invests in outcomes. If people are really engaged, they read for meaning, they write to be understood, they organize material in constructive ways, and they present to convey. All of the things that are frequently taught in isolation can be internalized in an engaged classroom as by-products of natural passion/engagement.

Creating engaging units is relatively easy, but to try to incorporate the power of passion driven study…that isn’t as simple. One of the problems is that kids don’t usually know what they are passionate about. Heck, most adults don’t know what they’re passionate about! Why? Because our schools and our lives are not usually set up to support finding passion. We over-schedule in school and at home. We cram in as many things as we can…we check off skills taught and tasks accomplished on a never-ending list….all the while being graded and then critiquing and judging ourselves and our surroundings.

Developing passion and interest doesn’t happen like that. That comes from safe open space…in the mind and in time. It requires free-floating ideas and connections and emotion. One thought leads to the next…one question leads to the next…one quest leads to the next…in a loose and free-floating way. Passions are often only seen in reverse. You can look back once they are there and see the meandering path that led to them, but that path can not be predetermined, scheduled, or etched…it has to be loosely felt and allowed time to develop. When a real interest or passion arises, the time and repetition needed to practice it to become skilled often comes naturally. Pink, Robinson and Kleon are right… it is like turning our whole system upside down.

This interest has turned into my own passion. It has led me to Project-based Learning, total subject integration, a loose student-driven schedule, a deep ongoing dive into technology…and I continue to meander. Now I am going to try my own form of Genius Hour to incorporate truly self-chosen topics. Learning how to allow this to play out in my classroom is mirrored in my very own quest, and I know one thing for sure…the learning has been lonely but unparalleled in its power.