Thursday, September 9, 2010

Cork in the Stream

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Do you delight in hidden agendas? Or do you prefer openness and transparency about what the learning objectives are? Your response may indicate whether you are a teacher or administrator, a person who embraces the power of the Read/Write Web or one that acquires top-down integrated learning systems.

Over at Dr. Scott McLeod's Dangerously Irrelevant--the word irrelevant certainly resonates with technology directors when they are consistently, uniformly ignored by their Curriculum Director counterparts, in spite of bridge-building efforts--there has been some discussion around the question, "What do teacher leaders need from administrators?" (guest blog entry by Bill Ferriter).

It's a great question. To be honest, my stint as a teacher masquerading as an administrator has taught me many lessons. The most profound lesson hammered into me, like nails some might say, forces an admission that administrators often have a completely different agenda than teachers. Where teachers want to take advantage of awesome technology-based resources, administrators drag their feet...and no obvious reason is shared, no "Yeah, that makes sense from an instructional perspective." Why the lack of transparency? Why the furtive glances at a map that only one person can see? Perhaps most telling from the blog entry linked above is Cossondra George's comment:

“As a teacher leader, I need an adminstrator who trusts me to think independently, make on-the-spot educated decisions, and have the ability to problem solve educational issues.” Cossondra George

Is trust the issue, or something else entirely?

I wonder if we're not predisposed as teachers to resent this opposing perspective. You know, having a hidden agenda isn't a bad thing in and of itself, but it can become malevolent when it stops us from working with children in the ways we perceive as worthy of pursuing.

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In her book, Seeking Diversity, Linda Rief makes a statement that connects with me, like the time I--at 20 years of age--accidentally shocked myself and was hurled backward into the wall when working on the innards of a Leading Edge computer. She writes:
When students live in confusion about what I want, they too become blind to learning. I want them to be fully aware of what we are about as learners day after day. No hidden agendas. No crafty games.
Wouldn't it be neat if teachers and administrators had ONE agenda, public, transparent, available to all? The truth is often far different. We, as teachers and administrators, far different agendas. While we agree about what needs to be done, sometimes, the terms of the compact are problematic. For administrators, it is an binding contract that holds teachers to what they must do. For teachers, it is a springboard for open learning, changeable, adjustable to achieve an objective bobbing like a cork in a swiftly moving stream.

When I consider Linda's point, a bit of self-reflection makes me want to say unequivocally to teachers, YOUR goals are MY goals. I have no other agenda than to meet your needs, to enable you to succeed. Any obstacles that exist, you and I will both work through them together. If I can't work on them with you, then I want to ensure that you have what you need. If I can't provide you with what you need, then I want you to know the reason why so that there are no misunderstandings.

Linda Rief shares, "I am constantly asking myself: What works for learners? What doesn't work? What can we do to make this a richer learning environment?" Those questions must be asked in the classroom as well as the campus office.

Let's change the question asked at the top of this blog entry. Instead of teacher leaders, let me ask, "What do leaders wants from those who have temporal power in K-12 schools?"

I want the freedom that comes from knowing what stringent, weighty matters prevent you from telling me why something can't happen. I want timely communications that explain why something must be one way, not another. I want the freedom to share that with other people without fear of retaliation.

Yes, leaders, I want to see us slip loose the bonds of dysfunctional hierarchical authority that binds my feet rather than lifts me up. And, in return, I promise to do unto my students what you have done for me.


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Everything posted on Miguel Guhlin's blogs/wikis are his personal opinion and do not necessarily represent the views of his employer(s) or its clients. Read Full Disclosure

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