That was the title to a great article in Educational Leadership (May 2010). In it Catherine Huber describes how educators usually share info in schools to promote professional learning. She paints three scenarios.
Let’s start with scenario 1: The author writes, “The principal finds a great article or book. She creates a routing slip to circulate the information among a select group — or, on a highly ambitious day, among the entire staff. The resource typically ends up either in someone’s take-home bag mixed among papers to correct or in a to-do pile, one of many around the room.”
This happened recently, and my quiet attempts to bring it up (I’ve blogged about this book, brought it up at meetings, and asked to include a discussion about it on an agenda), were to no avail. Time to give up, I suppose. But I want that discussion. I want to “search and find, to fail and learn, to risk and succeed in a changing world.” (part of my school’s values statement). I don’t want to let this go. I’m not sure what to do? School tend to have this culture of ‘niceness’ (or not being direct). Those who are direct are seen as complainers or ‘too vocal.’ I don’t want to seem either, so I ask again, what to do? How does one change this culture? It’s time. Maybe this is a failure and I just have to figure out what I’ve learned. No big deal – moving on to the next scenario.
Scenario 2 paints a scene of a teacher coming back from a great conference talking about it to their colleagues at lunch, but it is all forgotten by the time everyone returns to their classrooms.
And scenario 3: She continues,
“The instructional leadership team meets in the spring to plan professional learning for the upcoming school year. The team plans eight faculty meetings on the basis of what is currently happening in the school. But when the new school year starts, emerging issues in the building throw the plan off schedule, and administrativa, such as compliance training become the new required elements. Just like last year, the plan that promised eight house of action-packed professional leaning becomes three and one half hours of polite learning that fails to tackle the really important issues in the school.”
I hope things will change a little this year. And by that, I mean less passive. We can read handouts on our own time. The time we spend together as a faculty should be used efficiently and effectively. Spending 45 minutes listening to announcements is not a productive use of time. I agree, some announcements need to be made to the larger group and all organizations in all fields suffer from this in their meetings, but hopefully we can do better.
The author then discusses the following false assumptions:
- Passing information on is enough – true – I passed this article to a small group – crickets – what do I need to do to follow up?
- Insight must come from outside.
- Planning means learning. (I posted about that here from the book Transforming Professional Development).
Huber suggests 3 ways to update the approach. “Web 2.0 technologies can help schools create the structures necessary for sustained, complex, and meaningful professional learning.”
Structure 1: Share access to information – stop simply consuming information – do that, but also create and share it.
Structure 2: Look inward for insight (I will certainly be looking at our gardening experts for insight regarding our new school garden – showing up in M’s garden isn’t going to cut it anymore)
Structure 3: Protect learning time – much of our learning can be done on our own before hand saving valuable time when we meet to actually debate and discuss.
Here are some suggestions of those technologies: Moodle, Wiki, Twitter, Blog, Ning, Jing, RSS feeds, and forums. Huber says, “What is uniquely powerful about forums is the ongoing nature of the conversations.”
We cannot have these conversations in a ‘culture of niceness.’ But if you are one of few who are vocal, do you put yourself in an awkward position? According to Seth Godin’s book Linchpin: Are You Indispensable? (I’ll post about it soon), you need to be vocal in order to be indispensable (being a linchipin requires emotional labor) or you’re just a cog in that niceness machine. At the same time, though, you cannot alienate people.
Maybe you can. Perhaps I should take the advice of Hugh MacLeod’s book I read over the summer, Ignore Everybody: and 39 Other Keys to Creativity (I should post about this book too – it’s short, fun, and provocative). And in a recent MetLife Survey, “Increased teacher collaboration has the potential to improve school climate and teacher career satisfaction.”
Anyway, I thank all who read this blog, comment (either on here or to me personally), and engage in great discussions. I’d probably say my current level is at about Web 1.2 and this is blog is helping me move towards 2.0.