Friday, September 13, 2013

Know Your Place

When entertaining and studying big ideas in education, there's a temptation to forget your place as a teacher. Teachers are still workers who have leadership, rules, and contracts.  We work in systems where we have mandates and protocols to follow.

There's a temptation to want what you imagine for schools to be present right now, in the moment--vibrant communities of ready share, collaboration, debate, and forward movement, but the reality is that schools are organizations of multiple view points, roles, structures, schedules, and timelines--no one alone dictates this, and teachers usually don't make leadership decisions.

Forgetting one's role can stand in one's way of successful work. This becomes difficult when belief systems, new information, and ideas differ from the current landscape. What is one to do?

First, understand the educational landscape that you work in accurately. Know your role, and understand how to advocate effectively. It's okay to take risks, but you have to know the consequences with regard to those risks.

Next, seek collegial advice and insights. Often idealists need the real-time perspective of trusted colleagues to understand situations well, because often idealists see no reason why a dream, vision, and belief can't be implemented or needs a different process.

After that, mostly know your role, and work your magic, vision, and beliefs through your role. When treading outside of your role you risk troubles, troubles that are often not worth the time and effort.

Schools are still not the learning communities I dream of--schools are political organizations often far more complex than the clients they serve or the agenda that's important.  As I move forward with greater understanding of all of this, I also move in a direction of greater service to the children I teach and the families I serve as a classroom teacher.  I'll continue to write about my vision for good schools and optimal process--process that serves to move us towards a learning community.  I'll heed the lessons I've learned of late eating a bit of humble pie in that regard (must say I don't like the taste of humble pie, but it serves the spirit well in the long run), and I'll dive into my new challenge. Lessons learned.