Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Flashpoint change...


I don't believe in the flashpoint approach to change in education. I don't think it works in the long-run and it typically creates inordinate collateral damage.

A little context... I do believe that change happens despite what we do or do not do to effect it. Our world is organic, a living system, and our education world is no different. Trying to stay ahead of change in teaching and learning is akin to pulling an already speeding freight train with a big old chain- it aint easy! All this being said, I also believe that committed educational leaders can positively and pragmatically influence change, but it must be done in a systematic, strategic and tempered manner.

When attempting to influence the education system; to contribute meaningfully to improving the teaching and learning process, we need to ensure that our efforts include careful consideration and responsible forms of leadership. This takes time. Call it slow-boil change. On the contrary, flashpoint change represents the antithesis of the slow-boil. It's quick, turbulent and violent affecting a short term change to be sure, but not one that can be sustained. Like a pot of water that heats up too fast, all we're left with is a big mess after the flashpoint boils over.

I'm confronted with what I feel relatively safe saying is a revolutionary perspective toward change in education on behalf of a good number of my professional colleagues. I have written previously about my views on reform vs revolution. Revolution is most-definitely flashpoint change. Reform in my opinion connotes more of the slow-boil characteristics of sustainable change. A slowly boiling pot of water is controlled, it gets the job done and we're left with a result that we intended- no collateral mess. I can't think of anything within education that is so unacceptable and bad for kids that it requires immediate, violent change. When the issue of change takes on a bigger focus than the reason to change, this is not good. We get all fired up and foaming at the mouth over the need to change, all the while losing sight of why the change was important in the first place. This is when creative dissonance turns to disharmonious dissent and it goes nowhere fast.

I support the mission of public education and believe strongly that we have much to be proud of within our system that ultimately exists in the noblest of causes; to support the healthy development of mind, body and spirit in an ever-changing world. No small task. Each of us as educators must value what we do, advocate our cause and remain committed to the perpetual improvement of the system if we are to ensure that kids continue to benefit from the highest quality teaching and learning. Let's face it- we're all in this together.

I'm a teacher and educational leader who loves what I do.  I regularly reflect on my practise and contribute in many ways to the evolution of the education system. What I refuse to do in the interest of slow-boil effective and sustainable change is dishonor the efforts of my teaching predecessors by implying there are elements of the system that require immediate and violent reversal. We've advanced beyond the need for this approach- grossly unacceptable elements of education past like corporal punishment and segregated schools are no longer reality... the time for revolutionary efforts in education have passed. What contemporary education needs now is the ubiquitous will to change as a reality woven into the very fabric of everything we do. Are there aspects of the system requiring improvement? Undoubtedly... but a reflective, responsible and systematic effort is the only type that will get the job done sustainably and convincingly.

Let's take control of change in education. Let's be reflective and thorough in every decision-making process. Let's work together to control slow-boiling changes within our profession and rise above the reactionary, flashpoint perspective to accept that we are all part of a good and eminent institution that can only get better when we take a tempered approach to change.
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