Sunday, September 19, 2010

What are the public saying about schools?

I love to read Will Richardson's blog posts. He has written one called "Who's Asking", which asks the question,"What are the public saying about schools?" I hear what the public says about schools all the time on the street. The concerns and complaints have been the same for many years. The problem in my mind is that not many have any idea what schools should do to move into the 21st century.

Will Richardson writes,

"So here’s the deal with the change that many of us in this conversation are clamoring for in schools: we’re about the only ones talking it. The townsfolk down at the corner store aren’t demanding “21st Century Skills,” technology in every student’s hand, an inquiry based curriculum and globally networked classrooms. By and large the parents and grandparents in our communities aren’t asking for it. The national conversation isn’t about rethinking what happens in classrooms. No one’s creating assessments around any of this. And in fact, outside of the small percentage of people who are participating in these networks and communities online, the vast majority of this country and the world doesn’t even know that a revolution is brewing.
And, while it’s no shocker to say it, that’s what makes it really tough to be a leader in schools right now. Because if you’re doing your job, you’re thinking about doing things that no one out there is asking you to do. Which is, after all, what leadership is all about, isn’t it? I love Seth Godin’s quote from Tribes: “Leadership is a choice; it’s the choice not to do nothing.”Especially if basically standing pat will get you by. Given the current expectations for “student achievement” and adequate yearly progress, most school leaders can continue to get away with tinkering on the edges and not do anything to really upset the chalk tray. You want to make it into Newsweek’s top high schools list? Just keep pumping those AP courses and prepping those test scores. Constructing “modern knowledge” and sharing it with other global learners online? Not finding the check box for that.

I’ve said it before, you want to lead right now, as an administrator or as a teacher? You have to do both: you have do all of those things the parents and the town fathers and Newsweek (well, maybe not Newsweek) want you to do, but you also have to start shifting and seeing what the future holds for the kids in your schools, regardless if anyone else can see it. You have to, as the superintendent at my old school Lisa Brady has begun to do, lead your staff and your school community to the place where they understand the need for change as well, a place that’s not just about test scores and AYP, but that’s about student learning and literacy in new forms, forms that look much different from our own but that will be crucial to our kids’ success. You have to be an advocate, wherever and whenever you can, to convince people that while doing both is hard and takes time and effort, that it’s worth it, that it’s the right thing to do for the kids in our schools.

Because if you’re waiting for the conversation in the coffee shop and the porch swing to act, you’re going to be waiting a long time."

I apologise the cut and paste Will. I just can not say it any better than that. Thanks for the pep talk, sometimes I need it.

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