Shutting Down the Machine

My last post elicited a passionate response from David Truss advocating that we do more to support young teachers, ANY teachers, for that matter, that take the risks that are involved in transforming teaching and learning.

The educational machine is powerful and it can be unforgiving. A teacher who ignores the status quo will soon learn about ‘institutional homeostasis’. It might come in the form of scorn from their colleagues, admonitions from supervisors and administrators, or in the form of parents complaining because they want the same experience for their children as they and their own parents had as students. My first year teaching I experienced two of the three on the list.

So, what will it take to transform teaching and learning? What will it take to shut down the pleasant hum of the machine that is so good at turning out 20th century students even though we’re entering the second decade of the 21st century?

Leaders with Courage and Commitment!

I think this clip from Norma Rae is both inspiring and informing. In it, her supervisor, security police, and the factory boss himself, try to intimidate her. She gets fired from the job she holds so dear.

Norma is leading from the front, by example. Pushed over the edge, she takes action. She steps forward with no assurance that anyone will stand with her. Norma Rae puts herself on the line.

She is all in!

Whenever I see Norma Rae’s face, and the faces of her co-workers, I see fear and hope co-mingled. It inspires me to take a stand for what I believe in! By stepping forward with all she had, Norma Rae eventually gives others the courage to follow her lead.

When we set about following our hearts and doing what we think is right; we hope that what we are doing works, that other people see that it works, and that everything turns out for the best. Sometimes things work out and, unfortunately, sometimes they do not. We don’t have to look further than the assassination of Martin Luther King to understand that.

Leaders, whether they lead from the classroom or the district office, need to understand that there are powerful forces aligned against change.

So, it is our blessing and our burden to have the seeds of leadership in each of us.

There is no tiptoeing around this thing. Those who truly desire a transformation of educational system will have to endure many of the same trials and tribulations as those who fought and fight for change in other domains. While educational change agents may not endure the physical pain that so many activists experience; it should come as no surprise that some will be intimidated, or refused tenure, or shunned by colleagues.

If we are going to shut down the momentum of the educational machine, if we are going to transform the factory floor, we will need to be “all in”.

Courage and Commitment!

pete

Technology Transformation: The Death Valley Bloom

Last week I heard Sir Ken Robinson mention the Death Valley Bloom of 2005. He suggested that we check it out on the Internet. I did, and I thank Sir Ken for leading me to explore this amazing phenomenon.

Death Valley, California is unique because it contains the lowest, hottest, driest location in North America. Nearly 550 square miles of its area lie below sea level.  It is one of the hottest places on earth, attaining the second-highest temperature ever recorded, 134 degrees F. in 1913.

It contains the lowest point in the western hemisphere — 282 feet below sea level near Badwater.

In this harsh environment life seems rare.

Plants and animals work hard to survive. The landscape is barren, dusty, and devoid of color.

Death Valley averages less than 2″ of rain per year.


In the fall and winter of 2005 there were unusually heavy rains that dumped almost 6.5″ of rain on the desert floor.

Soon after an incredible transformation took place.

Wildflowers began to appear.

Entire hillsides began to come alive with flowers.

Splashes of color replaced the barren expanses of desert.

Death Valley was completely transformed in what has been referred to as the ‘Hundred Year Bloom”.

When we work towards transforming our schools, it sometimes feels as if our schools will never change.

We look out at the landscape of reform and see a vast desert.

Things look hopeless.

We don’t know where to begin. We get discouraged.

The Death Valley Bloom should give us hope.

The seeds of change are right there below the surface all the time.

As Sir Ken Robinson explained, they are merely waiting for the right conditions to bloom.

I love that thought. I believe it.

In order to transform teaching and learning we need to be the rain.

Make Rain!

pete