Sunday, February 20, 2011

Being a Bridge is Tough

I've been watching the protests that are sweeping across WI, and my gut reaction is simple:   it's much tougher to be a bridge.  We have difficult issues to solve, but making extreme statements on one side or another makes it difficult to find a win-win solution.  It's only when a center ground is reached that change becomes possible.  Bridges must stand against strains from both sides, and it is tempting to let go before the work is done.

This does raise the question of whether a system can totally be thrown out.  Wouldn't it be great to totally reinvent education?  To stop working within the status quo?   Of course it would, but we don't live in such a system.  Every time you speak of throwing out an old system, you come smack up against the personality dynamics found in most schools. While we all fantasize about it, we are wasting our energy.

Here's a better way to spend your time: do you know the Kiersey, or Myers-Briggs, or Color Temperaments of your staff?  Once you know that, you can better plan your strategy, because schools contain large numbers of personality types that are   _NF_, to use Kiersey or Myers-Briggs language.  These are the teachers that have devoted their lives to one district, and serve as coach, as unpaid class sponsor, who come to ball games and donate their own money to buy lunch for a hungry kid.  They want the kids to succeed, but change is difficult for them, because so many reforms have come and gone.   We need to consider them if we want change to succeed.  Based on your personality distributions, you can know how to re-frame the debate to meet their needs.   Give those teachers who are Kiersey Inventors and Generals a leadership role, but don't ignore the loyalty of those teachers who are NF personalities..  Take the time to listen to them, to give them the information needed to make the hard decisions, and talk about the health of the District.   It's that type of persuasion that will move you along as you consider the future.

This is the reality that faces us.   And it means that we MUST get teachers involved in the process and work of the Iowa Core, especially in Outcomes 5 and 6.  You MUST be the bridge, standing in the middle, encouraging your teachers and providing the resources and research that will let them meet the needs of the community in which they teach.  You are not the top, you are the middle.   Rinse. Repeat.

I'm sure this is not the only pathway that works, but I also know that overthrow of the system is not possible.  Start with your own BLT, with your PLCs, and see where they are at.   We all know that flexing our muscles can be done in a myriad of ways, but when we all pull together, we are more likely to win.

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