Category: 21st Century


It’s a year later….

The homework policy went into practice. Immediately issues kicked up. Did they consider the individual needs of students? Could they cookie cutter a set time for every student per grade? How could they monitor the assignment of homework? Who would supervise the policy?

Over time, the principal and her Shared Decision Making Team made some adjustments and in the end what the team could be sure of was that homework was in fact assigned more regularly than it had been in the past.

However the Team was shocked when the principal asked the “Is the Emperor wearing his clothes?” question:

“Can we somehow connect the perceived increase in homework to improved student learning?” she asked.

One thing the team could do together was squirm and squirm they did.

Then Bob said, “You mean that we have to evaluate whether the policy worked?”.

The principal wanted to say “Duh.” but restrained herself. Instead she said, “We went through a lot of trouble and a lot of fine tuning to get some sort of homework practice in place. Don’t we owe it to ourselves and to the children to find ways to decide whether what we did was worth it?”

Bob put his other foot in his mouth by saying “Well it’s not like the School Improvement Police will come after us if our plan didn’t work. Where does it say that we get raises if we succeed or pay cuts if we don’t?”

….

Hmm, Bob’s remarks are both fortunate and unfortunate.

They’re unfortunate in that he said them in the first place.

But they’re fortunate on a couple of counts. One is that this is a kind of mini case study and hopefully not a true story. That a professional or a member of any school improvement effort would be so callous about whether there were positive or negative results from their collective planning and decision making is frightening although I daresay that members of school improvement groups near and far might sometimes think like this.

The other fortunate development is that we can now parse this kind of thinking in terms of what this dysfunction, Inattention to Results, may suggest.

It can be argued that school leaders are sociologists who also happen to be educators. We are after all spending so much of our time dealing with groups of people in various combinations to create the self sustaining, proactive, learning organization. When the groups go sour, perhaps out of the mental model shown above, or out of any number of other group process failings, the organization, and by extension certainly, the children it serves, suffers.

Search your memory and try to recall what happens when an educational initiative, or choice, from textbook selection, to policy making, and everything in between, falters or fails, how often has someone asked “Why?” “What have we learned from this?” worst, “WHO is responsible for this?”

The subliminal message albeit the cries near and far of “accountability in schools” is that we aren’t really held that accountable for our results, and in doing so we can continue to muddle on through to perpetuate what “mostly” works for “most” students.

It occurs to me that in so many ways, Inattention to Results is the most perfidious of the five dysfunctions. To ignore, blow off, make excuses for what we do or don’t do is really unconscionable in systems thinking where the correct model has always been PDSA, Plan, Do, Study, Act.

PDSA speaks to a kind of research and set of activities that needs further exploration in our mutual exploration of Systems Thinking and that is the idea of action research. That will be the subject two blog entries from now but for now it involves the obligation of the school organization’s leadership to build in mental models and inquiry skills to establish dialogues and analyses about our school’s practices, the great ones, the good ones, and the not so good ones.

As we end this segment of systems thinking blogs about Team Learning aka, Lencioni’s Five Dysfunctions of a Team, let’s remind ourselves about Benjamin Franklin and his co-signers of the Declaration of Independence, one could wonder where we would be right now if these dysfunctions dominated their thinking before they signed it!

There was a movie a few years back, “What About Bob” where Bill Murray drives Richard Dreyfus to distraction every time Dreyfus tries to get Murray out and away from Dreyfus’ vacation time. But so lovable is old Bob (Murray), that Dreyfus’ family becomes fond of him and wants to be sure that Bob is included in whatever they do lest Bob’s feelings be hurt.

Well what about Bob (from our last blog post, not Bill Murray)?  You know, the one who submarined the flimsy-consensus his shared decision making team had made about a homework policy by not really buying into what the group had agreed to.

Would you have wanted Bob to have signed the Declaration of Independence?

Let’s fast forward the script from the previous post where Bob made it clear in the faculty room that he had not really bought into the agreement about homework policy that the group had adopted.

Two weeks later. The scene is the principal’s faculty meeting. “As you may know your school’s Shared Decision Making Team, as a result of trying to pin down root causes for our students’ achievement, decided to put a homework policy in place.”

Before she could continue, teacher Ted raised his hand and interrupted. “Excuse me, I was just wondering how this group came to consensus and agreed to putting this in place.  I mean, did they consider all the yes-buts about a blanket homework policy?”

The principal turned to the Shared Decision Making Team Chair and said. ” Would you like to take this question?”

She nodded. Then said, “Ted you were a member of this team under the old principal. Thankfully our new principal has worked hard to invigorate and empower this process to improve our students’ achievement. Here is how we came to consensus. We looked at the data. We tried to establish what the root causes that may be driving our achievement concerns. The group agreed that students’ time on task seemed to be a problem what with pull outs, school activities, and other interruptions. We thought that one solution to this was to increase homework so that we could formalize and increase the amount of time that students spent practicing what they learned in school that day.”

Ted shook his head. “I can see what you are thinking yet I cannot agree that more homework would solve the root cause you centered on. There’s all kinds of research refuting the value of homework.”

The faculty began to stir. Questions and concerns came from round the room to the Chair. Finally Ted asked, “And the group, the team, they all agreed to this?”

The Chair looked at her faculty colleague members. “Well, the parent-members are not here obviously, but your four faculty members did.”

More murmurs rolled round the room. Ted pointedly looked at Bob. “Bob, I heard you were not altogether ok with this yet you agreed to it. What will you do when this policy falls on its face?”

The murmurs thickened. Bob, flushed, unwilling as a new teacher to differ with a veteran colleague. The Chair stirred too. Then she whispered to Nan, who was next to her, and also a member of the Shared Decision Making team, “How much does it really matter? If the policy doesn’t work it’s not like we lose our jobs, or get a pay cut.”

Get your arms around this. Lencioni’s description of Lack of Accountability is that the group avoids difficult issues and also is unwilling to hold each other’s behavior to task if it interferes with the effective operation of the team.

Two issues in one? Avoiding difficult issues? Such as? And such as?

Such as Bob’s cutting and running when challenged by his faculty colleague?

Such as the Chair’s avoiding her own responsibility to hold the group to what they had agreed to or at very least to committing to reexamining it?

The scene in July 1776 Philadelphia was heavy with drama and import for sure. The delegates at the Second Continental Congress had finally reached consensus about seeking the thirteen colonies’ separation from England. It hadn’t been easy to reach agreement and it had to be difficult to sign Jefferson’s newly composed Declaration of Independence for doing so marked oneself for capture and punishment by the British who certainly had no intention to let their colonies go gently into the night.

The story goes that when it came time for Benjamin Franklin to sign his name to the Declaration of Independence he said, “We must all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately.”

The message behind Franklin’s assertion was clear: If any of us  (the colonies) show weakness, or reluctance, let alone either a measure of discontent or a lack of total support for the collective decision, the entire move toward the colonies’ freedom from Great Britain would suffer and likely collapse.

….

Now fast forward to the nearest faculty room. It’s the morning after a Shared Decision Making Team meeting. Joe the Math teacher fills his coffee cup prior to his class. He looks over at Bob, a new math teacher who has been “drafted’ to be a member of the school’s Shared Decision Making slash School Improvement team.

It might be surprising that Joe would even know that the Shared Decision Making team in that school had met. But the new principal in contrast to the old one under whom Joe had worked for years, placed a great deal of emphasis on collaborative leadership and shared decision making practices. These were highlighted at faculty meetings and some of their initiatives had actually become the “law of the land”.

So to be polite, he said to Bob. “How did yesterday’s Shared Decision Making meeting go? Anything interesting?”

Bob, the rookie had joined the Shared Decision Making team because he felt he had to. He didn’t particularly understand its purpose. But it was a way to show professional service to the school and its activities helped him understand how the school functioned on the students’ behalf.

Yesterday’s meeting had been a particularly animated. The principal had presented data about students’ performance that showed a downward trend in a number of academic skills and content areas. The team used root cause analysis strategies to drill down to what they thought might be driving these trends.  Several causes were assessed .

Several member teachers noted that the school day had become plagued by many interruptions. More so, it was difficult to have all the students in the class present at the same time because so many students were being pulled for remedial, gifted, and music instruction during the day.

As the members used Five Why techniques to distill what this issue actually reflected. The group agreed that a root cause need was to increase instructional time on task.

Various ideas were considered. Some were good but financial restrictions and teacher contract language made them difficult if not impossible to adopt.

Then, Mary the English teacher suggested that the group consider a homework policy where a minimum expectation of time spent on homework would be required and ratcheted up per grade. The basic premise behind this, Mary said, would be to afford students time on task that they may be missing during the actual day.

For sure, the group didn’t immediately rally round this suggestion. YES-BUTS bounced among stakeholders but in the end the group began to center on this as a viable initiative. Sam, the group’s facilitator looked at the several members. He searched their faces for doubt and or buy -in. He noted Bob’s puzzled expression.

“Bob, you recognize how this idea is meant to increase students’ time on task in order to get deeper into their content and skills mastery?”

“Sure I see the need to do this Sam. But I also see how making a policy could be ineffective if we try to cookie cutter a uniform expectation of time commitment.”

Mary responded. “Well Bob, I think we will have to pay attention to the concerns you raised. But I wouldn’t want the baby thrown out with the bath water by dropping the whole proposal. We can put the policy in place on a pilot basis and iron out kinks as they present themselves.”

The rest of the group nodded in approval at Mary’s suggestion. Sam then asked the entire group if there was consensus to pilot a homework policy.

Each stakeholder raised their hands. Bob, did too, but only after what seemed like a minute of deeper thought.

Sam turned to the principal. ” Ms. Smith, could you take steps to formulate a pilot policy with some implementation guidelines for us at the next meeting?”

Ms. Smith said “Certainly, perhaps you could appoint a sub group of the whole to offer specific input to do this and I will also seek some more input from staff members as I develop a roll out process”

The meeting had adjourned at that point. Bob left too. But he hadn’t left his doubts at the door. He had “voted” on the consensus but he certainly was no rabid die hard supporter of the proposal.

So here is how he answered, ” I have to tell you, the meeting went on and on. As usual Mary was trying to dominate the conversation with her grand ideas. We started to talk about a mandatory minimum amount of time to do homework that would go up for each grade level. I understood what they were trying to solve but I was uncomfortable with the idea since there were too many variables that they hadn’t thought about it. I gave my opinion but on one really listened to the new guy on the block and I could also tell that Ms. Smith was in support of  it. So, I voted for it even though I don’t particularly like it.”

“Aha”, thought Joe the Math Teacher, “Bob the rookie doesn’t particularly like the team’s decision and I certainly don’t either.”

And herein lies Lencioni’s next dysfunction of a team: Lack of Commitment, and we can fairly validly conclude that we can all be glad that Bob the Rookie did not sign the Declaration of Independence.

How can team be cohesive let alone effective if its members are varying degrees of lukewarm in supporting a point of view or action that they must eventually move out of their deliberations and out, in front of, and for its constituents? How can that “action” or decision be enacted effectively if those who purportedly supported it?

I suppose that there are a variety of potential root causes that might explain why this negative behavior exists in a team. Was Bob the rookie a villain, or a victim in that his membership of this committee may have been more coercive than voluntary? Did the facilitator fail to ensure that the group knew their own ground rules re consensus? Did the facilitator fail to ensure that the group truly committed to a shared vision? Did the group members fail to listen to each other and honor a dialogue that would have more nearly ensured that all yes-buts and doubts had their fair chance for exploration and consideration?

The bottom line is that as onerous and as time consuming true dialogue may require, cutting short a potential dissenting point of view, etc., may likely result in Bob the Rookie going along to get along. And in so doing defeat the effectiveness of any such idea or action that the group thought they had genuinely generated for the good of the whole.

Recently I was on a Dissertation committee where the candidate proposed an action research study that would among other things, involve training fellow music teachers in using and collaborating about evaluating music teachers’ “effectiveness” in their instruction via a Moodle approach.

The proposal was excellent and has much, much promise for teachers on “non”-academic subjects as they will also be responsible for showing student “growth” by requirement of the New York State Annual Professional Performance Review (APPR). His dissertation defense few months later was beyond terrific.

In the beginning though , I  was more than a little bit skeptical about the training-of-colleagues component with the Moodle. Moodle is an open source wiki-like Web 2.0 approach. A wiki site if you have never used Wikipedia as an example,  is a site that enables its members to add to, elaborate, and create new information for that site for the rest of its viewers.

This soon-to-be- Ed.D’s premise was that the Moodle would be a source to its participants in shaping how they might incorporate the online rating system that he had developed. It would also serve as a training platform so that participants could learn how to both use the Moodle and to implement the rating system.

At the time I remarked to now Dr. X, “This could be like herding cats.”

By the way, he more than pulled it off. However my concern in principle for all groups,whether face-to-face, or virtual had validity. For you see, as you already know instinctively, groups need to both be grown and grow themselves.

This is no easy task. Although there are plenty of examples to offer I’d like to offer Patrick Lencioni’s work as a good example.

Lencioni’s book, The Five Dysfunctions of a Team captures issues associated with effective group development in a tiered system that has much value.

  1. Absence of Trust
  2. Fear of Conflict
  3. Lack of Commitment
  4. Avoidance of Accountability
  5. Inattention to Results

In closing this blog post I’d strongly suggest that the Group Facilitator (I hate that word) not keep Lencioni’s Five Dysfunctions as secret code. In fact, it is both healthy and conducive to the group’s evolution that they become aware of these Five Dysfunctions as they operate among each other. As they learn the “language” they learn to be aware of the presence of these dysfunctions and more likely collaborate to eliminate or reduce them!

Next blog post – Absence of  TRUST!

If you’re looking for a textbook or want to read a book re Leadership. Check out book just published where I am co-editor and a co-author, “Leadership for a Global Economy”.

Available through Amazon and North American Business Press.

1. How will you know if the Yankees met their strategic goal?

Answer: They won the World Series.

2. How will you know if you lost weight?

Answer: You lost weight.

3. How will you know if your organization’s systems are working?

Answer: Everything seemed to work.

Answer to number one: Yes, they must win the World Series. Anything less is an organizational failure.

Answer to number two: Technically yes, i.e. if you lose weight. But HOW much weight? One pound? Two? One hundred?

Answer to number three: How DO you know if your organization’s systems are working?

– if no one complains?

– if you have a profit?

– if your students are achieving?

Before we answer number three let’s piggyback off the first two questions: We all know that any athletic or competitive team (not only the Yankees), “measures” itself by whether or by how much they have  won their respective championship. It’s an absolute, either you have won the championship or you have not, sort of like if you’re pregnant. Either you are or you aren’t.

If my goal is “lose weight” it might be fine to lose a pound or two. But I’d also offer that a dieter measures her “success” by more weight loss than one pound.

If we consider organizations, especially schools as systems – as organizations those first two throw – in questions offer some guidelines, although not nearly enough to truly assess the extent to which the school-as-system-as-0rganization  (SASAO) has met its goals.

For one thing, there is no World Series by which it can measure itself for school systems. For sure we “create” artificial World Series types targets. 100 per cent diploma rates, everyone meeting standards, are two examples. But they are more nearly akin to leaves on a tree than they the stoutness of that same tree’s trunk.

For another thing, and maybe more preferably,  if a school-as-systems-as-organizations measures itself incrementally it can keep track of a promising or not so promising trend. Oh sure there is that AYP, Annual Yearly Progress.  This type goal basically says “Well you haven’t met the ULTIMATE goal but you are showing progress toward that goal. Let’s be satisfied with that for now. So let’s look at that. I’d proffer that that sort of measurement COULD be more effective than “winning the World Series” if the yardstick measured a continuum toward a meaningful goal in the first place.

I’d argue that the mental models offered and practiced in just about any schoolhouse have surface level merit but in their collective aggregate  miss the mark because the goals that steer them are faulty to begin with.

Because the “vision”, the shared vision, is not enunciated, or if vocalized from time to time, is not truly the beat by which the school-as- systems-as organization marches. Visions and so-called missions like these are  the  kind you find posted somewhere in the school entrance and in the masthead of the school newsletter, or even on its website if it has one.  But the so-called vision has little or no collective conscious in the day to day energies of the stakeholders.

More than that if the purpose of American schooling is to prepare citizens of the 21st century with economic, critical thinking, creative, and technological literacies and capacities, we will need to create CRITERIA BY WHICH WE ASSESS goals as offered in this very sentence that will give us true input as to whether we are in fact doing this or something far less effective and far less worthy.

So when we craft that plan to meet that vision, let’s wag the school-as-systems-as organization’s tail effectively by knowing how we will know before we construct what we think we want.

The Root Cause term has garnered some attention these past few years of economic upset. When the market tanked in 2008 commentator after commentator pontificated on the root cause(s) for this systemic failure.

There are ways to more nearly isolate what “lies beneath” and how or to what extent groups and individuals can do this, first on a micro level and then at its counterpart. This is a skill and a mindset that needs more structured attention than what I intend to do in this blog series.

This blog series instead is meant to showcase how leaders “teach a man to fish” systemically. In this instance that idea appears to speak most nearly to Senge’s Personal Mastery and to Team Learning Disciplines but I would argue that neither has much traction without a reversal of prevailing Mental Models.

The Mental Model in this City appeared to be a dangerous mix of Futility, Powerlessness, Resentment, Frustration.

But I couldn’t tell them that. I needed them to figure that out and that was the challenge! I needed to teach them to fish.

I do not claim major victory here. I do claim that I distilled their feelings about the issues noted above by flat out telling them. “You feel Futile.” “You feel Powerless.” You feel Resentment”. and “You feel Frustration.”

They were almost surprised that I had “diagnosed” their concerns. And then came the key point.

To borrow a page from the late Steven Covey, I asked, “So there’s nothing you can do about any of the issues you lament?”

I guess it’s better put that I used a “reverse” Steven Covey. He among many practices, speaks to identifying what power or influence an individual or in this case, a group may actually have and to seek to use those competencies or abilities to work at solutions.

At first there was nothing. No answers or ideas. I waited the famous 6 seconds “wait time” strategy hoping that someone would offer up an idea.

Then I got, “Well, maybe the community has lost sight of what they want us to do. Maybe we should either reassert our vision or invite stakeholders to review it with us.”

Then I got, “I’m not sure we are communicating about the many wonderful projects and programs our districts offer.”

Then I got, X and then I got Y. And then I got Z.

And then, and then.

The ideas flowed! The Mental Model had been punctured.

What was necessary next was to take the bundle of ideas and show them how to make them happen.

I am now wrapping up a two month training for a districts’ administrators and supervisors whose focus is to upgrade and standardize its supervisory practices.

The need for this came from at least two sources. The first was the realization of their new Assistant Superintendent for Instruction that the district’s practices were inconsistent and probably not very effective. The second was that we in New York State have been charged with adopting a supervisory model that has consistent, research-based rubrics that will ultimately enable a school district to somehow “quantify” at least part of the effectiveness of each teacher and each principal.

If any of us could have a penny for each word, spoken, written and shouted about this process we’d all be a lot richer than we are now.

What was good about how this process kicked off in this district was that the second need while certainly not being ignored for it cannot, does not appear to be the driving interest behind the efforts to upgrade their observation practices. Very refreshingly to the contrary actually, in that the district’s supervisors have recognized that the systemic practices associated with shared vision, mental models, and personal mastery,,,, and also systems thinking skills in general, could all benefit from upgrading what they do.

And the benefit(s) certainly appear to start with the belief that using good clinical observation practices will result in ensuring increased achievement for their youngsters.

I will eventually put the PowerPoints I used to help coalesce the supervisors’ work up on my website: http://www.actvelearningconsult.com, but the purpose of these next posts will be to codify my own reflection of the extent to which the group could of its own vision, improve what it does, and what the role(s) district leadership played and plays in solidifying and impelling its positive momentum.

To begin with there was no real model for effective clinical supervisory approaches. Oh there was an “observation form”. And here is where I will argue that function follows form rather than form follows function. By this I mean, that the actual physical format of the observation process was wanting in many dimensions. One of these, as silly as it may seem at first glance, was that the space provided for comments, recommendations and goals was such a small space that the observer would be hard pressed to capture and offer anything meaningful for the teacher to embrace. The message behind the music then appeared to be to write “something” but that its significance or effectiveness would not add up to much.

The supervisors certainly recognized this and there is active negotiation between the district and the teachers’ union about adopting a more effective format.

So the letter of the law will be addressed and the new “form” will generate a much more successful set of functions. But the spirit flowed from the group’s common values and priorities.

The group certainly adopted the shared vision that they could pull together a set of consistent practices and paradigms that would enable them to help all their teachers be exemplary.

Perhaps the key word is consistent because as is often the case in more districts than we all probably realize, there was no consistency of expectation of what a good lesson should look like. The only consistency was the “form” but the process of engaging teachers in meaningful dialogue about the qualities of a good lesson appeared to be lost in the flurry of administrivia that we all can find ourselves mired in.

So we began with affirming several teacher supervision models. You know, Danielson, Marzano, et al. But while any of these models have research based merit I pushed past this for the time being at least to emphasize Supervision 101 as in the value of pre-observation.

Apparently this was problematic on three counts. One is that pre observations were not necessarily the rule. Another was that supervisors would often do unannounced observations or do walk-throughs a’ la  Elmore, each protocol of which, does not lend itself to pre observation analysis. The third was that not everyone knew how to conduct a meaningful pre observation conference.

Perhaps a fourth issue was and is that the entire clinical process is pretty time consuming isn’t it? Using the 5 Disciplines as guideposts, that working against severe time constraints all school leaders feel, sometimes leads them into practices of expedience rather than into preferred. Here I am reminded of Steven Covey’s time use quadrant who argues that effective people spend the majority of their time in Important but not Urgent time usage. To be sure, it may not be urgent (as in health and safety urgent) for school leaders to spend a major chunk of their time in clinical supervisory practices, it is nonetheless IMPORTANT for the long term health of the school organization to devote major energies to raising and maintaining the quality of instruction.

These certainly speak to Senge’s Shared Vision discipline and to his Mental Models discipline.

As for the first issue, not necessarily the rule, here was an instance where the Assistant Superintendent and I had no problem offering up research and support to validate that a pre observation is a non-negotiable.

As for the second problem, that a good portion of observations done were walk throughs and drop ins we needed to be more creative. Here the group got creative by deciding to develop a new practice where all teachers would schedule what I will call a “what-if” conference where teachers and administrators could generalize about what kinds of instructional practices the teacher might think she would need feedback about. This would enable the supervisor to have some sort of guideline to use when she dropped in or walked through.

As for the third concern, where, supervisors needed to learn how to do a meaningful pre observation conference, using research, YouTube, and role playing we were able to generate a substantial model for implementation.

So yes, we are beginning to re-tool the overall system of clinical support but there were more issues to solidify as well most of which lie  in the systems practices of the district.

The next post will speak re data gathering.

Senge speaks volumes to the learning-organization’s “discipline” he calls Mental Models.

Before we speak to what it is and how it may operate, let’s be clear about the premise of learning organization. I sometimes think that we in educational leadership positions might mistakenly equate Senge’s use of the learning organization term in the context of schools since after all, we are organizations that we hope foster learning. And by the way, that may be a pretty good example of a mental model.

However that isn’t how I interpret Senge’s premise.

His, and others who espouse what Demings and others would equate learning organization to, speak to an organization committed to learning, sustaining, and perpetuating itself. There are plenty of examples of such who have successfully been learning organizations and of others that have failed at it.

Let’s take the negative first: Blacksmiths were not a learning organization. If they were  they converted their skills and practices and learned how to run gas stations and auto repair businesses. Video store owners on whole were not learning organizations because they likely missed  or were unable to react to the technological innovations that deliver video directly to consumers.

On the positive side: Think of Apple. Apple was losing what was left of its computer marketing share until Steve Jobs recognized Apple had to reinvent itself to be a platform for linked technologies where the computer stood as the hub of other connected services, like video, music, and mobile computing. Think of … you know what? I cannot think of other companies or institutions that are better examples of reinventing themselves! I am sure there are many others but maybe someone can offer some ideas to me. I will refer you to Jim Collins’ book Good to Great for potential examples. And actually on writing this I am thinking of Walt Disney and the Walt Disney corporation as potentially good examples.

At any rate, where would you put the organization known as public education? Has it reinvented itself to not only sustain its existence but also to improve its likelihood of success? Hmmm. For that matter, what about governing agencies in general? How good have those organizations been at reinventing themselves against uncertain futures?

Senge argues strongly for five disciplines or practices that characterize exemplary learning organizations. One is Mental Models. I like the term ” ‘tude” as in Attitude as a more concrete one. That is, what are the attitudes, paradigms, mental models, dominating beliefs, of an organization that characterize how it does or does not operate?

Apply the idea to schools. What are the mental models driving the conversations in a school’s faculty rooms? What are the mental models that the school leaders use in their  faculty meetings? Are they toxic? Are they hopeful? Are they positive? Are they grounded in the belief that they and their colleagues are united around finding ways to continue to meet the needs of 21st students who will be 21st century citizens?

Are they locked into “We can’t!” or restricted by “They won’t let us!” or by “You know, we can do that?” or “Let’s try it and apologize later if it doesn’t work?”

And that brings me back to two points, one from a previous post, another is new: Remember unlocking creativity? We spoke about that when I noted how I as coach / facilitator felt morally responsible to keep the ideas rolling and flowing lest the one or two good ideas amongst the torrent never get a chance to flow through the filter? The other point is about my experiences in wrapping up the school improvement reviews I have describing.

As I twine the two points together both are about Mental Models. As I began the process of giving the finalized reports to the school / district teams I was once again struck by the chains that bound them. The Money-Mental-Model was one as described in the previous post, but not money or lack thereof, rather the lack of imagination or of courage to Reallocate monies to fund new and worthy ideas.

Of course doing so would threaten the system that created the original and Ineffective programs that perpetuate current power structures and power blocs. I’m not naive though. I understand how contracts, unions, and mandates real or imagined, can restrict reapportioning  resources to support new and creative ideas.

Nonetheless, the mental model, the attitude, that drives the decision making and the implementation of these choices, has, must be, courageously identified, parsed, twisted, turned, and eliminated in order to recreate the organization so it can recreate itself.

One effective way to confront and at least clarify negative mental models is to first of all point out what a mental model is to the group. Doing so sensitizes a group to how mental models may drive or defeat creativity and decision making. That will help but it must also be complemented by the leaders’ task to model and to help the group work very hard at HEARING each other by giving each other opportunities to dialogue so that folks become comfortable enough to hear their own paradigms – tudes and comfortable enough to adjust them if they realize how doing so will actually open the way for making an organization a learning organization.

At this point I am pretty sure I know what educational  future I want for today’s and yet – born children.

I want a schooling system, formal and informal, that will enable all of our children to not only survive uncertain futures but thrive in them.

 I want a formal and informal schooling system that will power wash off the  collective crusts of stultifying mental models and of self serving interests that do little more than perpetuate mediocrity.

I want a schooling system, formal and informal, that will repudiate organizational structures that only mostly work for middle class white children and that acknowledges all children deserve all chances to be all of what they can be.

I want innovation and creativity to rule all forms of instruction, formal and informal. I want rote, Baltimore Catechism (most of you will have to look that up!), spit back learning to be BANNED at best or at least permitted as a minimum quota of instructional time.

I want technology used, NOT for technology’s sake but embedded in innovative and creative instructional strategies that will in the end create what I want most of all:

I want schooling, formal and informal, to create what the future, whatever it may be most nearly, most certainly, will demand, to create people who can think for themselves rather than to accept the Flavor of the Day or to mindlessly accept their lot life.

What did Paul Simon once sing?

When I think about the crap I learned in high school it’s a wonder I can think at all.”