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Sunday, April 12, 2015

Front Line News: Ideas that Matter

How do you collect ideas from the front line of your organization?

Years ago I went to a seminar that discussed the value of knowing and understanding what the front line of an organization thinks and does. The speaker told stories of successful organizations like Toyota that fostered idea management systems to collect and consider ideas from the front line.

That seminar impacted my thinking and share, and since then I've readily shared ideas for betterment as well as stories of success from the front line of teaching. I think it's important that policy makers, politicians, citizens, families, and leaders understand what happens and what matters in the day-to-day operations of a classroom.

With the same line of thinking, it is similarly important for educators to collect ideas and stories from the front line of their classrooms--the students and their families. What are they thinking? What are their ideas for improvement and a better classroom? How do we foster discussion with regard to betterment and a job well done with regard to teaching/learning? Then how do we act to better serve student and family needs?

Many educators are reluctant to share as they don't want to be perceived as stepping outside of their role or position in an organization's hierarchy. They want to do what's expected quietly. Yet, I believe if more educators were willing to share their viewpoint, and those viewpoints were met with respect and action, that the potential for schools to develop with strength would increase.

It's the end of the year, a time when surveys are typically distributed to collect information from the front line of organizations. Enlisting staff in the survey creation and making the survey results transparent are steps in the direction of creating greater transparency, share, and voice because educators will better value the information gathered and also be able to look at the results and see where they stand with regard to other educators' ideas about organization growth and development. Leadership also gets a snapshot of the front line from these surveys.

Massachusetts has the MassTell survey which does that. In looking at the results last night, I recognized that while some schools had adequate results for publication, others schools did not have enough responders to show the results. My school met the quota and our results were published. It was very interesting to see where our school was similar to elementary schools across the State and where we were different? It was also interesting for me to see how my viewpoints matched and were different from those of my colleagues. I was happy to see that many in my school regarded similar strengths and needs as me--areas that we can celebrate and develop as a school community.

MassTell is one way that leaders in Massachusetts can get a snapshot of their school communities. In-house surveys, meetings, and discussions are other ways to collect and share that data, data that I believe has the potential to serve a school system well.