Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Flashpoint change...


I don't believe in the flashpoint approach to change in education. I don't think it works in the long-run and it typically creates inordinate collateral damage.

A little context... I do believe that change happens despite what we do or do not do to effect it. Our world is organic, a living system, and our education world is no different. Trying to stay ahead of change in teaching and learning is akin to pulling an already speeding freight train with a big old chain- it aint easy! All this being said, I also believe that committed educational leaders can positively and pragmatically influence change, but it must be done in a systematic, strategic and tempered manner.

When attempting to influence the education system; to contribute meaningfully to improving the teaching and learning process, we need to ensure that our efforts include careful consideration and responsible forms of leadership. This takes time. Call it slow-boil change. On the contrary, flashpoint change represents the antithesis of the slow-boil. It's quick, turbulent and violent affecting a short term change to be sure, but not one that can be sustained. Like a pot of water that heats up too fast, all we're left with is a big mess after the flashpoint boils over.

I'm confronted with what I feel relatively safe saying is a revolutionary perspective toward change in education on behalf of a good number of my professional colleagues. I have written previously about my views on reform vs revolution. Revolution is most-definitely flashpoint change. Reform in my opinion connotes more of the slow-boil characteristics of sustainable change. A slowly boiling pot of water is controlled, it gets the job done and we're left with a result that we intended- no collateral mess. I can't think of anything within education that is so unacceptable and bad for kids that it requires immediate, violent change. When the issue of change takes on a bigger focus than the reason to change, this is not good. We get all fired up and foaming at the mouth over the need to change, all the while losing sight of why the change was important in the first place. This is when creative dissonance turns to disharmonious dissent and it goes nowhere fast.

I support the mission of public education and believe strongly that we have much to be proud of within our system that ultimately exists in the noblest of causes; to support the healthy development of mind, body and spirit in an ever-changing world. No small task. Each of us as educators must value what we do, advocate our cause and remain committed to the perpetual improvement of the system if we are to ensure that kids continue to benefit from the highest quality teaching and learning. Let's face it- we're all in this together.

I'm a teacher and educational leader who loves what I do.  I regularly reflect on my practise and contribute in many ways to the evolution of the education system. What I refuse to do in the interest of slow-boil effective and sustainable change is dishonor the efforts of my teaching predecessors by implying there are elements of the system that require immediate and violent reversal. We've advanced beyond the need for this approach- grossly unacceptable elements of education past like corporal punishment and segregated schools are no longer reality... the time for revolutionary efforts in education have passed. What contemporary education needs now is the ubiquitous will to change as a reality woven into the very fabric of everything we do. Are there aspects of the system requiring improvement? Undoubtedly... but a reflective, responsible and systematic effort is the only type that will get the job done sustainably and convincingly.

Let's take control of change in education. Let's be reflective and thorough in every decision-making process. Let's work together to control slow-boiling changes within our profession and rise above the reactionary, flashpoint perspective to accept that we are all part of a good and eminent institution that can only get better when we take a tempered approach to change.

2 comments:

  1. It's terribly difficult to feel like evolution moves quickly enough. Not sure if you saw this valedictorian speech from this past June - but when I read the words of students like her, I'm thinking revolution is necessary:
    http://tinyurl.com/25jvbc2
    Does that devalue the work our predecessors have done? I don't think so. Education is like steering a boat the size of California-it takes time to change direction-maybe that's a good thing as I have met a lot of educators who are tired of the fad-fixes. Technology changes the face of this quite a bit-it requires teachers to work harder to stay relevant to our kids' lives.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Yes, thanks Al.

    It's the fad fixes as you call them that I agree are more akin to flashpoint change and therefore not productive, but rather debilitating to reform.

    Change is a slow to steer ship, you are correct. If we're to navigate change in education responsibly and effectively we have to understand that if it's worth changing, it's worth taking the time to do change well.

    Don't get me wrong; I've witnessed my share of student horror stories- my own school experience was stressful at time to be honest, but overall I have to believe that the vast majority of teachers are connected to kids and strive to do their very best to support their holistic growth toward becoming happy people (to me the ultimate goal whether in the academic, social, physical or mental context.)

    All I'm saying is, if there are elements of public ed that need changing, we have to show restraint to resist the revolutionist's fervor that would have us take an extremist's point of view using words like "fighting" and "suffering" for the cause. I just dont think the institution I belong to will benefit from a radical effort- at worst, I think it would be irresponsible and the collateral damage among the teaching cohort that is so torn in its perspective toward change would take forever to repair.

    Teachers are passionate people, but they should channel that passion toward responsible action- be the respectful and sensible, tempered example of action we encourage our students to be.

    I will watch the speech. Thanks for the link.

    ReplyDelete

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