Saturday, February 28, 2015

Schools as open systems

Spent the day today doing some reading and writing about school culture for my school administration class. Funny, I began by wondering which of my "3 options" I could employ to make the task more tolerable, only to find by this afternoon that I'd inadvertently become interested in it. (Not sure I slipped into flow, but almost.)

A few things rolling around in my head as a result...

Gerstner's quote: "culture is not part of the game, it is the game."

Too many toxic cultures in schools these days. Maybe it's the result of a constant barrage of mandates from above, or maybe just a blame-game response to the very real challenge of educating our diverse clientèle. Either way, this has got to change, and I love the story in Deal and Peterson of Jefferson High. They brought in a consultant, and one toxic teacher stood up and asked him to leave even before he'd begun. He responded that he was thankful he had the option (implying he was better off than them for that reason). But he stayed, and proceeded to interview every one of them and compile such a dismal picture of the school that they were all forced to face the facts and embrace the need for change. We need a paradigm shift from schools as filters that serve the "good students" to schools as fires that ignite a love for learning in every student.

Deal and Peterson on school-parent relationships: "a school must be... an open system with highly permeable boundaries."

One of my dreams is that the walls of public schools will dissolve and the school will truly become bigger than the building. We live in a truly global community, and it's time our educational system reflected that. Education is not about textbooks and content curricula--it's about being human, and that means being hypersocial animals with a passionate penchant for understanding.

For too long, schools have been like factories. It's high time they became a catalyst for community. And my experience the other day in a Senior Center confirms that the community wants this as badly as we do.

A synthesis coalescing from my two years of study in this program: As a school leader, I need a streamlined system by which students, teachers, parents, and community members can rapidly and easily give me feedback and get involved in the decision-making process.

Which ties back to the above points. In order to build this kind of community, everyone needs to have a voice, and not just a voice, but a say in the decision-making process. Our systems of governance need to evolve with the world. The days of hierarchies and top-down directives belong in the dust heap of history. And today's digital technologies can facilitate this.

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