As an educator with 24 years of experience, I can honestly say that schools aren’t a great deal different than they were when I first started teaching.
One significant difference is that we have the opportunity to be hyperconnected via technology. And being connected means exposure to new ideas, new people and new conversations.
Much is made about the role of conversation in the change process. We now have 140 character conversations that occur in Twitter, conversations that occur via blogging, and the new trends of conversational conferences, unconferences, cafes, you name, we have it at our disposal, much of it always-on, always available.
But it just doesn’t really mean that much when you are talking school-based systemic change. Yeah, its cool and friendly and sexy to engage in these conversations, meet the people face-to-face and give them a hug, it might even be…well, amazing. Yet, having these types of conversations are exactly why schools have never really changed-we just talk about it, we never really do it.
Of course, there are a number of impediments to change in schools, which if I listed them here wouldn’t make me a lot of friends. Let’s just say that there are obstacles which we haven’t dealt with very well.
Continually talking about the need for change isn’t helping. At some point you have to do it what you are advocating for. How exactly does that get done?
Online and face to face conversations at conferences/unconferences/Eluminate sessions/Webinars are for sharing ideas. People get their ideas challenged, they have a chance to reflect and change their direction if they deem it appropriate. Perhaps the conversation serves to reinforce the validity a person’s belief, which is good. Nothing wrong with that, but its individualistic.
But how does that exactly contribute to school-based systemic change? That’s what I’m interested in. Everyone going together in an identified direction, all pulling together, and believing that that place is the place.
I get that the person can bring the conversation into their schools.
But the more critical conversation begins locally, and not in 140 characters. Not at conferences. Not online. It occurs as a discussion among school community members about what they want their schools to be. Plain and simple. It needs to be an organized process with contributions from all stakeholders. Doing that can root conversation as an essential element in the sequence required to change schools. Expecting that a set of conversations that occur outside of the climate and culture of a school will have a significant impact on change is a simplistic at best.
What’s first? Engaging in these endless conversations online, and then bringing some of it in to a discussion? Or is it simply putting heads together in a school and just talking through it. Perhaps many of you are saying that it doesn’t have to be necessarily either or. Maybe so, but maybe not.
Talk about education. Talk about your kids and what skills they need. Talk about your school. Educators are smart people. We know what to do. Change is about leadership, not conversation.
Having endless conversations online, and thinking that the online conversation is required in order to change or start the change process in a school won’t get you anywhere. Instead, roll up your sleeves with your colleagues and have the difficult conversations face to face. Sure, bring some ideas from the never-ending, feel-good stream of educational consciousness, but talk and discuss and share with your colleagues while using the climate and culture of your school as a foundation for that discussion.
Simply stated, change begins at home.