Thursday, 5 September 2013

Is your school an opaque institution?

People ask me a lot about how I like my job and I am lucky enough to be able to say I love it. I visit a variety of schools to help them build their capability for blended learning which is a combination of face to face and online learning.
Every day brings a new challenge and one of the aspects I like the most is the diversity in the schools.  Just as the students are different from school to school, the teachers and principals also impart their own particular flavour on the culture of the school.  I had not realised just how different until I started this work because I had worked as a teacher and senior manager in one school for 33 years.
Often you hear members of the public talk about a school and say - it is a great school or alternatively - they have a lot of problems there.  People are quick to judge and I often wonder what they base their judgments on.
The schools that are judged great are those in which the walls are down.  They are welcoming and allow parents and other education professionals to look closer.  Dialogue is free and welcomed.  Discussion is rich and varied, and there is an easy humour about the places.
On the other hand when doors are closed and departments are siloed and there is little flexibility in discussion between parents and teachers and education professionals, it makes one a bit wary. I heard the phrase today "opaque institution" on a Ted talk video by Don Tapscott.

It is difficult to see if the horse or the cart comes first in these schools.  If you are judged positively, does that encourage you to open your doors and welcome discussion?  If you are judged negatively, does that make you close the doors and control the conversations?
From what I see around the country, there are some awesome teachers and learners out there.  There are teams working hard to make a difference to the lives of the students, despite the abysmal backgrounds some of them come from.  There are students working hard to escape the dismal backgrounds they come from.
This is a time for change in schools.  There is a new paradigm of learning with the Internet at our fingertips.  It would be great for all schools if they were all able to open up the discussions, break down the walls and have those conversations about the future of their children and young people.  
In the words of Jim Collins, in this article about leading change,  there need to be the right people on the bus, they need to be in the right seats and finally the wrong people need to get off the bus.
A bit scary for some, I know.

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