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The Larger, Smaller Conversation

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I had a whole post ready for my "official" LeaderTalk day last Friday but in the end I just couldn't bring myself to click "Publish." I was a little frustrated when I wrote it and I think it needs to simmer for a bit before it's ready for prime time.

Fast-forward to this morning and a great keynote from Karl Fisch about literacy in the 21st century. Karl said a lot of great things and challenged the thinking of a lot of people in the room. This led to some great conversations throughout the morning and throughout the day.

But Karl's talk got me thinking about my "unpublished" post. I've been spinning a lot of half-formed thoughts around in my head all morning and this is my attempt at putting them together in some quasi-cohesive form.

Most of us reading LeaderTalk and publishing our blogs are basically in agreement that school, in its current iteration, leaves something to be desired in terms of its ability to meet the individual needs of students in a way that doesn't look like an assembly line. Though the methods proposed to address this deficiency vary from blog to blog and person to person, there isn't a lot of disagreement that something needs to change.

The question I'm left with, then, is that with all of this ideology around how things should look, and all these great conversations "out there," how do we carry these conversations back to our schools? If we (the schools) are supposed to "be the change [we] want to see in the world," then how do we start talking about this change at the micro level in one school?

More pointedly, how do we have a real discussion about these real ideas that doesn't somehow degenerate into (a) "If the school/district would buy me a projector/computer/document camera, then I could do this stuff," or (b) "Let's talk about tardy policies and consequences for cell phone use..."?

Is this the majority of teachers? Probably not. Are these equipment and policy issues important? Sure. Are they the most important? Not to me.

Nonetheless, I would love to get beyond them in a way that doesn't sound like I'm minimizing the concerns of the teachers for whom these are the Big Issues Of The School.

My struggle right now is trying to frame these big ideas in a simple, straightforward way that is accessible to everyone and doesn't alienate any particular group of teachers. On the other hand, part of me feels like waiting around for buy-in from everyone means we're wasting a lot of time when we could be moving ahead.

I guess don't have a lot of answers, but I sure have a lot of questions.

--

Scott Elias
http://scottjelias.net

3 Comments

Scott:

I have found that the way to ask those tough questions is to "ask those tough questions"! I met with a charter school this morning and asked them about their level of commitment to their own charter mission. We talked about that commitment on these levels:

What are you willing to work for?
What are you willing to fight for?
What are you willing to go to jail for?
What are you willing to die for?

Too melodramatic? Corporal Tillman wouldn't think so: http://kriley19.wordpress.com/2008/07/04/patriot-in-cardinal-red/

Kevin--

I just had a conversation with my BOE about strategic planning and building a vision for our students and our school district. As an example, I spoke of my vision for technology and the way our kids could learn and create. When I finished someone starting complaining about our website and how lousy it is. It was frustrating because I wanted to get them thinking big idea, envision a whole new layer to what we do with kids, plan for the future-- and they were frustrated about the quality of teacher web pages.

If you figure this one out, keep writing about it because it's one of the toughest problems we face.

Scott, Kimberly, and Kevin -

This is the type of "discussion" that I would love to engage in to come to some resolution!! Lock us in a room (OK - maybe not a room - how about a conference of some type) - until we can arrive at a plan to get some answers or solutions - some genuine changes that will get at the heart of what we have been talking, reading, blogging, hoping and wishing about! I agree - I feel as though I am waiting to get everyone on board - and the ship is sinking!

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