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Monday, August 01, 2016

Empowered Communities

How does our collective energy light up schools in ways
that positively affect teaching and learning. 
Last night I met with the MTA's Next Generation Leadership community past and present. There was an exchange of stories that demonstrated ways educators have collaborated to empower their teaching/learning communities.

I listened carefully to the stories.

Camaraderie and Care
It's probably no surprise to anyone that empowered communities begin with caring for one another. We can all point to the colleague who does that best in our schools and communities--the one who is ready to listen, support, and help out whenever possible. It also depends on recognition--noticing the good work colleagues do. Empowered communities have a sense of team.

Shared Interests
Empowered communities typically rally around shared interests. For example, in schools, the primary shared interest is teaching students well. How can we collaborate to support working conditions, policies, protocols, timelines, salaries, and other structures that allow educators to teach all children well? What do we currently have that supports this kind of good work, and what more do we need?

Transparent, Regular Communication
As I listened to the stories, it became clear that knowledge is power. When educators know clearly and honestly what's happening in a school system, that gives them the ability to do their best work. When information is hidden or not forthcoming that creates obstacles to reaching the shared goal of teaching children well.

Lead Time and Equitable Opportunity
Good systems share protocols and information with enough lead time so that all members of the organization can take advantage of that information and related opportunities. When opportunities are shared without that kind of lead time, it typically distances some from the opportunities available.

Reasonable Expectations
In the changing world of education, it's possible that some systems may lose track of what's reasonable. As we add new initiatives, protocols, and expectations, we often forget to take away outdated practice thus creating an unreasonable workload. This issue was evidenced in stories told, and it's an issue to keep front and center since reasonable expectations generally mean that the expectations will be met with strength rather than the irregular performance that exists when expectations are unreasonable.

Trust
Trust is an essential ingredient in empowered communities. There's many reasons why trust may erode such as oppression, lack of transparency, misuse of power, inequity of opportunity, and unjust treatment. Nevertheless, when mistrust exists, it's essential to unpack that and figure out its roots. It's also just important to begin building trust sooner than later with consistent, open, inclusive practices rather than exclusive, closed, and irregular behavior and attitudes. Who can you trust in your teaching/learning organizations? What have they done or do they do to earn that trust? What can you do in your as a team to forward a trusting environment? Trust matters with regard to empowered communities in schools and elsewhere.

How do you contribute to an empowered teaching/learning community? What can you do differently to support the attributes above? What attributes would you add to this list--elements that empower teaching/learning that results in top notch service to students?

These are questions I'll be thinking about in the days ahead.