This blog, written by Patricia M. Godoy, was originally posted as a reply to the blog post “A Perfect Confluence” by ERS Director Regis Shields. Make sure to share your own thoughts on our blog posts be leaving a comment.
This exciting piece, with a positive and constructive tone and the intimation of a guiding hand on one’s shoulder, urges leaders in the education world to stretch their thinking to the next level. But how? The parallels between what we are asking of our educational leaders, and they in turn are asking of their teachers, and they in turn are asking of their students – to take the risks necessary to learn – is striking. A skilled classroom teacher knows what it takes to create a safe environment, one in which students venture from the security of what they know to the possibility of what they might learn. Indeed this is the first order of business at the start of every school year: get a baseline reading on the students, establish a structure in the classroom, with appropriate flexibility; set clear expectations, use consistent language, model desired outcomes and reward positive behaviors—essentially to put in place the indicators that foster trust.
Effective school leaders follow the same basic rules as teachers. Your Charlotte-Mecklenburg video brilliantly highlights two schools whose principals’ adherence to these basic rules is leading a quiet revolution in the face of daunting facts. In those examples, the principals took the time to get to know their school communities and issues, they implemented a framework for planning and collaboration among staff, they convey overall direction, strategies and goals yet empower the teachers to make their own decisions and own them. School leaders with the will and the way to engender the trust of their staff by putting in place the elements that contribute to a safe learning environment for them have it all figured out. Theirs are the faculties who are safe to take the risks required to reach new heights and develop a road map tailored to the needs of their individual communities.
And so on for the other stakeholders: parents, school boards, superintendents, civic leaders, thought leaders and think tankers. When these constituencies take a page out of the school teacher’s plan book and allow school leaders to take risks, make mistakes and trust that they will go back to the drawing board better for the knowledge that comes from experience, change comes and progress follows.
So yes…we are in the midst of the perfect confluence, and the prospect of converting it into a new educational order for school children is exciting indeed. Many of the challenges have been well researched, analyzed and documented, by ERS and others, providing educators with a treasure-trove of data to supplement their own findings in designing the learning environments that work best for their communities. The next order of business is to hire qualified professionals and then create the circumstances, at every level, where they can do what they were hired to do – in essence, to trust them to do their best work.