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« Follow-up to Differently Moral-ed Generation | Main | A differently moral-ed generation »
Monday
Dec242007

RCE 3 and 4: Respect and No Size Fits All

Miles' Law: Where you stand depends on where you sit.

Always remember that you are unique. Just like everybody else. - Demotivators

In a recent blog post, I visited the Radical Center of Education and suggested some principles for achieving this enlightened state of mind and how it will result in a change philosophy that may result in change actually occurring.

  1. Adopt an "and" not "or" mindset.
  2. Look for truth and value in all beliefs and practices.
  3. Respect the perspective of the individual.
  4. One size does not fit all (kids or teachers).
  5. If you think it will work, it probably will.
  6. The elephant can only be eaten one bite at a time. Or is it that you can't leap the chasm in two bounds?
  7. To travel fast, travel alone. To travel far, travel with others.
  8. Don't be afraid to say, "I don't know."
  9. Measurement is good, but not everything can be measured.
  10. Know and keep your core values.

Respect the perspective of the individual.
One of the benefits (or curses) of serving on most district-wide committees is learning about the challenges and goals of a variety of school employees - classroom teachers, students, principals, librarians, maintenance staff, clerks, paras and even parents. What we too often call "turf battles" actually are issues viewed from individual and individual group vantage points - different "frames" to problems, if you will. What make this interesting, is that people of good will can have widely differing perspectives.

  • Budgeting is one area where this is radically apperant. The question of whether more dollars are best spent on library materials, lower class sizes or tuck-pointing brick walls will be answered, legitimately, honestly, and differently, depending on whether it is the librarian, a social studies teacher with classes of 35 kids, or the head of maintenance asked the question.
  • The issues of digital rights management look very different depending on whether one is a producer or consumer of the creative product.
  • Definining "adequate" network security will depend on whether one is a tech whose life will be made miserable by a virus or a classroom teacher who finds multiple log in screens time-consuming and frustrating.

If change is going to happen, the voices of all stakeholders need to be heard. Different doesn't mean right or wrong, it just  means different. (See Carolyn Foote's "Stakeholders" terrific Not So Distant blog entry for an example of how this applies to library facility remodeling.)

Daniel Pink in A Whole New Mind singles out empathy as a critical skill for workers. If I could take steroids for any leadership strength, this is where I would like to bulk up. 

 

One size does not fit all (kids or teachers).
The goal most requested by parents from our district's 1998 strategic planning was an Individual Education Plan for all students, not just those identified with special needs. How interesting that parents, even more than educators, see each child as an individual.

dandelion.jpgEcologists talk about the advantages of bio-diversity - a wide variety of living things that create a healthier biome. Why do we not talk more about edu-diversity in our classrooms. (And that differentiated instruction means more than just different reading levels of materials.) Too often when the next great thing  - constructivism, technology, whole-language reading instruction, integrated math, data-driven decision-making, professional learning communities, etc. - comes along, it is considered a silver bullet and other methods and philosophies are denigrated and pushed aside, rather than seen as another tool in a big educational utility belt.

There is no educational strategy (unless it involves some sort of cruelty) that does not work for at least some kids under some circumstances. And I would also guess that there is no educational strategy that works with every kid every time. An educational monoculture is no healthier than the golf course's greens.

My kids loved some teachers some of the time. They hated some teachers some of the time. And had they gone to the same schools, I seriously doubt these would have been the same teachers on the love/hate lists. Every teacher doesn't fit every kid. Nor should they.

The "one size does not fit all" principle is something we tech and library folks might keep in mind more often when we get enthusiastic about a particular tool or service and then are disappointed when the teaching staff yawns or even defies us. Try as I might, I simply don't "get" Twitter, yet other folks seem to rely on it heavily. I suppose if I expect you to respect my taste in this matter, it behooves me to respect yours as well. We're all unique, after all. And some more uniquer than others ;-)

This is why the "and" not "or" mindset is so important. Our educational system needs to be as diverse as the kids and teachers in it.

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