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Why is it so hard for us to do the right thing?

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As leaders, we often know what is the right thing to do. Just to pick a few examples…

  • We know that ongoing, formative progress monitoring is more appropriate than ‘data days’ or ‘data retreats’ for yearly summative data, and yet many schools still only do the latter.
  • When it comes to positive organizational and/or academic impact, we know that the ‘sit-and-get’ professional development model typically is a complete waste of participants’ time and organizational resources.
  • Under any reasonable scenario planning forecast, it’s quite clear that the world is going to be quite technological and globally-interconnected, yet we continue to ignore that fact in most schools.
  • Under any reasonable scenario planning forecast, it’s quite clear that schooling and/or learning and/or assessment are going to be much more personalized and invidividualized than they are now, and yet few school organizations are preparing themselves for these new ways of doing things.

We’re supposed to be leaders. We’re supposed to be out in front, leading the way. And yet the organizations that we supposedly ‘lead’ are so very far behind in so many areas. We like to point fingers; it’s easy for us to do so and ignore our own culpability.

As leaders, when are we going to own the fact that much (most?) of it is us? Why is it so hard for us to do the right thing?

Scott McLeod
Dangerously Irrelevant

2 Comments

Bureaucratic inertia!
There are lots of vested interests in the status-quo. Lots of power within a school is related to what Ian Jukes calls TTWWADI (that's the way we've always done it). Change the systems and we change who has the power in a school (system). People will do all they can to hold on to positions of privilege!
Dare I say it too, it is also easier for most!
cheers
Greg

I think that Greg's response is over-simplified, and one that comes up far too often. I used to work in an organization where our director to separate "task" from "work." Simply put, task could be thought of as checking off items, or doing thing the way that they have been done before. Real work involved thinking about why were were doing things. Although we were not a school, one frequent question was "what are you trying to teach?" We had a mission and vision long before these things had been reduced to the task level (a piece of paper posted somewhere and never given another thought), and these were expected to give guidance to the things that we chose to do, as well as how we went about them.

Just as an unexplored impression of educators, things like vision and mission end up being way too wordy and vague--as if the greatest fear in life is that someone is going to try to hold them to some of these good destinations and it's important to include an escape hatch. They always end up with things like: To educate all children to the extent that they can be educated towards an ultimate goal of being prepared for living the life that we have prepared them for.

As it happens, I am a bureaucrat, a job I like because it moves me a bit up closer to the places where policy is made. But, I would say that inertia of all kinds runs all up and down systems. There are many who prefer not to be bothered with deeper questions--like long-term planning, contemplations of mission and vision--and view these things as mere bureaucratic clap-trap.

I am not insensitive to the need to do all of these things while the kids keep arriving every morning at the appointed time and must absorb the greater portion of everyone's time. But, unless there is ongoing, and honest, wrestling with such big questions, collaboratively, as organizations, any individual attempts to move forward just wither and die.

I recall, back in the dark ages when I was an undergrad, having to read a well-reasoned attack on the teaching of reading (as I recall, it was Neil Postman). He wasn't attacking the how of teaching reading. He was going after the why. It generated some good scholarly responses. Unless we are able to toss these kinds of examinations around from time to time, we are likely to stay stuck in the ruts of reinventing history.

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