Thursday, February 08, 2007
Surfing the waves of change
Are school riding the waves of change or building defences against them?
Waves of change are effecting every aspect of our society, changing forever how we see and interpret our world.
Schools, if they are to future orientated organizations , ought to be at the forefront, riding the waves of change.
Unfortunately, in most case schools, are to preoccupied solving immediate problem to scan the horizons to see opportunities coming their way. Or, worse still, so self satisfied with their past successes, that they prefer to rest on their traditional laurels, watching at the breakwater , seemingly believing that all is well and that there is need to change . Sadly middle class parents seem to agree with this later prognosis and rush to enrol the students to get what might have been appropriate if we were still in 1950.
Governments are loath to make too many waves and all to often are unduly influenced by the powerful reactionary forces that keep waves of change at bay.
Thankfully there will aways be those who have the courage of their convictions to seek new challenges. There are a few principals who constantly ask questions of themselves and their teachers about current practice and are aways encouraging everyone to search out new waves to ride.
These principals share three things: a healthy disrespect for the establishment; the confidence to try out new things ( and to learn from their mistakes) ;and the power to inspire others to join them in the quest.
Timid principals, tied to historic views of teaching, end up by watching as waves of new ideas are dissipated on the breakwaters they have helped build. By remaining linked to the defined foundations of what is to be taught and measured they inevitably limit the capacity for creativity and innovation so prized in their rhetoric.
When school leaders come out from behind their breakwaters and embrace the new opportunities ( risks and all) new paradigms of teaching and learning will evolve redefining historic power relationships and in turn fuelling the thirst for learning of their, staff, students and parents.
It is all about leadership. A leadership that makes 'its' intentions clear - waves are to be ridden; ;risks are to be taken; catching waves is the future.
Such leaders are dissatisfied with the status quo and continually question the purpose of education and then they go about creating the conditions to develop such a capacity to learn in all those involved in the school. They support, trust, and provide whatever resources that are required - including coaching for beginners.
In such schools everyone feels empowered. Parents are empowered to become involved. Teachers are empowered to find new ways to engage their students. Students are empowered by example and are encouraged to seek out waves of their own. In such a school learning is for everyone - they are true 'learning communities' - communities of enquiry. There is a constant thirst to find better ways and, at the core, is action research - where ideas are developed that in turn generate waves of creative energy. Learning by doing applies to teachers as well as students - and more often than not without a clear definition of where that learning will take them. It is this uncertainty that drives learning - not following prescriptions set by others.
The major source of creative energy is a feeling of dissatisfaction with how things currently are; the need to change 'how it is' to 'how it could be'. Leaders do not have to be charismatic but no doubt they will be seen as 'mavericks' , or eccentric, by their more conservative breakwater dwellers locked into conformity and convention.
Real leaders are continually scanning the horizons to predict what might happen and build in all learners ( teachers, students and parents) the capacity and capabilities that will enable them take advantage of future trends.
It will be over to such learners to develop the world they are going to live in and it will demand considerable courage to combat the forces of the status quo. Our society needs such pioneering people who who understand the interconnected world they live - that small waves can develop into major changes if ridden well.
Leaders of such creative schools need to be valued and not pilloried. They are the 'future shape shifters' who will lead the way into new insights by having the courage to leave the safety of the shore and ride the waves of opportunity. Many will not succeed but without their efforts we will all lose out.
So who are they in your community? Search them out - go surfing with them- you will have your minds changed.
Better still search out and make your own waves.