Saturday, February 20, 2010

Education Reform- Just Get On With It

flickr CC image via Lance Sheilds

I have had the opportunity a few times within the institutions I serve to contribute towards the conception of mission, vision and values statements. As much as I agree these statements are vital to the long-term sustainablity of any organization, I must admit, the process can be taxing to say the least. An excellent Twitter conversation I had recently with Jerrid Kruse (@jerridkruse) spurred me to reflect further on my thoughts regarding purpose, and where it should originate in education.

One of the most profoundly thought-provoking books I have read recently is Viktor Frankl's (1946) Man's Search for Meaning chronicling his experiences as a concentration camp inmate, and describing his psychotherapeutic method of finding a reason to live. According to Frankl, the book intends to answer the question "How was everyday life in a concentration camp reflected in the mind of the average prisoner?" I took away from this book the notion that without purpose, there is nothing. I think I already knew this on some level, but not to the point where I was considering the concept as part of my minute-by-minute navigation of daily challenges. I have come to realize implicitly that purpose needs to be at the core of everything I do. As an educator, I believe it is critical that a sense of personal and professional purpose is reflected in the mind of every teacher.

Back to the mission, vision and values (MVV) statements issue...
During my conversation with Jerrid, we reflected on the question of where the MVV should originate. There is a two-fold context to this question; the organizational context and the individual context. As I stated above, MVV statements are vital to the long-term sustainablity of organizations... this is undeniable. A successful organization is one that knows explicitly what it does, the preferred future it is aspiring toward and how its beliefs will help them get there. Running alongside this collective, organizational principle of MVV statements are individual people who make up the organization. I believe that successful organizations are a sum total of the successes of the people who belong to them. For this reason, it becomes crucial for the people within an organization to be highly attuned to the MVV of the organization they belong to, but even more importantly if the organization is to thrive, these individuals must be dialed in to their personal MVV philosphy and how it syncs with the collective MVV of the organization.

At the core of our conversation was the issue of education reform. There are few who don't believe our western education system can be improved in multi-faceted dimensions. Virtually every bastion of traditional education appears to be under scrutiny in reaction to quantum changes in society demanding a proactive response from schools. We agreed that authentic change comes from the grassroots element, and in education, that element is teachers. Teachers have a unique vantage point relative to those dimensions of education that need to be changed... they are the people within education who know what is done well, and more importantly, what isn't and needs to change. With respect to MVV statements, I believe strongly that it's time for teachers to step out and share their perspective toward change in education, and in order to do this convincingly, they must be capable of articulating not only their personal mission, vision and values, but also how these are synthesized with the organizational mandate, or more critically, how they aren't. Consider the evolutionary possibilities inherent in a process where teachers are given a forum to share this reflective dialog with other education stakeholders; an intellectual environment where teachers' perspectives are not only heard, but respected because they have been shared sensibly, intelligently and proactively... and most vitally, with purpose.

It's time to just get on with the business of education reform, and there is no better cohort than teachers to lead the focused dialog about how it should be done; teachers willing to confidently share their personal mission, vision and values, the ones that reflect what's good about education today, but more importantly, the ones in opposition to what isn't.

Teachers... find your purpose, find your voice.
  • Special thanks to Jerrid Kruse for cranking up my thoughts on this topic.
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