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Thursday, November 17, 2016

Just and Fair Teaching Requires Dynamic Strategic Process

The challenge of social justice is to evoke a sense of community that we need to make our nation a better place, just as we make it a safer place.  - Marian Wright Edelman

At the table, the educators debated about how to best proceed. It was a heated debate with lots of emotion. Clearly the members of the team were coming from a variety of perspectives, experiences, beliefs, and possibly values too.

A leader spoke, "Hey, I think we need to back up a bit. As I listen, I can see that we're all coming at this from different places, places that we don't understand with regard to one another. So let's back up, start again."

Then the skilled leader led the group in the following way.

First, let's talk about the problem at hand--what is it that we are trying to do. We worked on the language and solidified our collective focus.

Next, let's be explicit about our beliefs/values, experience, and ideas with regard to this problem. She shared a Google doc chart with all of us, and then we silently typed in our individual beliefs/values, experiences, and ideas for five minutes. She also displayed the collective document on the white board. As we typed, it was clear that we had many varying perspectives. In addition, as people typed, it served as a kind of silent brainstorm since one idea often led to another.

After that, we went around the table, and each person talked about their share for a few minutes.

Then the wise leader said, "Let's break, think about the chart we created before we meet again. Also continue to add to the chart if you'd like and think about a process we'll use to solve the problem. At our next meeting we'll decide on a process and if we still have time, we'll start solving the problem. In the meantime, teach with your best experience and insight with this problem in mind.

I left the meeting feeling empowered, heard, and valued as part of the team. I also left with greater respect for all team members since I had a chance to see all their viewpoints in an effective, inclusive way. I was so thankful for the leader who took the time to back us up to better strategic process--a process that was inclusive, respectful, and empowering.

In time, we determined a positive strategic process and utilized that process to come up with a terrific plan with regard to the problem at hand. We also grew as an effective team which meant that future problems profited from our elevated ability to work together and do well by the students we serve.

Note: This meeting is fictional, but one that I imagine to be both positive and proactive with regard to the good work possible in education organizations.