Monday, June 05, 2006

Principals suffering from HAS Syndrome?

  HAS - Hyper Active Superficial Syndrome Thanks to Jackson Pollock for the painting. Posted by Picasa

For the past fifteen years or so schools have been flooded with endless curriculum, assessment, and compliance requirements and as a result many principals are under pressure to know exactly what is it that is expected of them. No wonder many are feeling somewhat stressed even if the macho and stoic amongst them pretend all is well.

During this time of trying to guess what is expected of them many principals suffer from, what change management expert Eric Abrahamson calls, 'RCS' – Repetitive Change Syndrome. He also says when organisations are asked to implement more change initiatives than they can reasonably handle 'Change related Chaos’ occurs.Other writers call it an 'implementation dip'. One business writer calls the problem ‘corrosion of character’ because in the attempt to guess what is expected of them ‘leaders’ lose sight of what it is that is important to them causing depresssion and feelings of lack of integrity.

School now suffer from the label they give to their their students 'ADD' – 'Attention Deficit Disorder' unable to focus on what is important to them – or, more importantly, what is important to the wider community if we want to develop a sustainable creative country. All too often schools have become inward looking and competitive, turning themselves in to ‘Christmas Tree – look at me schools' with fancy brochures and doubtful narrow success achievement graphs.

Worse still, after years of being in this low trust audit culture, principals start to believe that what they have been asked to comply with is actually the 'right thing' to do and, as a result, ‘schools become over-managed and under led’.

For far too long schools have put up with Ministry‘CRAP’. This stands for the Ministry 'Continually Changing All Procedures’! No wonder many teachers and principals are suffering from degrees of stress, burnout and cynicism.

A good friend of mine used to say that, ‘Teachers have two important things they must protect at all costs – their energy and their time .If they waste it on bullshit they will have no time to teach’. We are at this point now!

Now, as the world wide ‘market forces’ public choice efficiency approach falters, there is a move towards placing greater trust in the collective wisdom within organizations and communities .

The Ministry, obviously aware of this trend, has moved away from its technocratic curriculums and a 'new' Curriculum Framework will soon offer schools the freedom and flexibility that is long overdue. Ironically schools will now have to throw out, or unlearn, what they have had to develop to take advantage of this change of direction.

'New' answers are for schools to 'transform' themselves into ‘professional learning communities’ based on shared visions and values. And now schools are being asked to work together to share their collective expertise. Teachers expertise is now seen the key factor rather than the distant ‘experts’ curriculums. High teacher expectations and ‘learning how to learn’ (‘key competencies) now 'trump' learning objectives. The new draft even exhumes an old, but important, word pedagogy – the ‘art of teaching’ and even goes as far to state that developing a ‘love of learning ‘is important.

This is a real change of direction.

The new ‘curriculum’ will be ‘Deju vu’ for long suffering creative teachers and principals but it least will be a welcome antidote to all the nonsense that has passed for education the past decades. Principals will now need a good dose of 'ODD' – ‘Opposition Defiance Disorder’ so as to place a greater emphasis on what they, and their communities, think important. Innovative principals have always had the courage to say no to ensure what is valuable is protected and done well.

As we enter an age of creativity schools need to focus on ensuring that all students have the opportunity to develop all their talents and not just be restricted to a narrow diet of literacy and numeracy; we now need ‘new basics’ and ‘new literacies’ for this new ‘post modern’ world.

One needs to ask why we have had to wait so long for those in power to face up to the obvious, that things have not been working and are beyond ‘tinkering’. There must be a syndrome which covers being blinded by ones own outdated views? Lack of reality ‘gap’ or the ability to self delude come to mind.

At least we all now know the Emperor has no clothes; the ‘Emperor Has No Clothes Syndrome’ - EHNCS ?


Anonymous said...

A Jackson Pollock painting recently sold for US$11 million. This gives a whole new meaning to New Entrants doing splatter painting doesn't it. I would be happy with even half that for a whole classload of New Entrants work...... think of the teachers we could employ, the G&T programmes we could do etc.
Go on, get to it - Splatter away.

Bruce Hammonds said...

Sure does. Bad luck for Jackson though that he was a bit of a manic depressive and commited suicide! He didn't get the money!

Art still remains a vital part of creative teaching programmes but it is a shame that is all to often often squeezed out by literacy and numeracy. And often it lacks personal expression - due to an overdose of criteria , teacher intentions and exemplars!

Anonymous said...

Why do our Wellington based 'experts' have to blindly follow failing overseas trends and in the process ignore the creative talents that reside in our own country?

Bruce Hammonds said...

The trouble is we have default position in our collective brains that says somebody else always knows best.

A recent book, 'Wisdom Of Crowds', suggests that the opposite is true in the right conditions. Through conversation and dialogue it is possible for a group of people to be 'wiser' than an individual 'expert'.

This ought to be the basis of democracy. If, as politicians seem to believe, people don't know enough then they ought to inform them . Mind you, letting others make our decisions might be just a way of not being forced to take personal responsibility - it's aways easier to blame others!

Anonymous said...

A lot of principals suffer from HAS!!

Anonymous said...

A lot of principals, if given the opportunity to lead, would run for cover! Such people hide in their 'HAS syndrome' to avoid leadership.

Chuck said...

New to your blog, Bruce. Thanks so much for your insight and ideas. As a middle school principal in the U.S., I look to expert guidance regularly. Typically though, the experts I look to are not the self-proclaimed experts (politicians) who are determining the policies and direction of public education.

Maybe we'll see some changes with the new President's administration.