Wednesday, December 8, 2010

How Much?

One of the realities I bump up against in the work I do is teachers who try to wait out whatever change their colleagues and I are trying to implement in their school. Change, even when positive, is difficult. And unfortunately, schools and districts can get into what Michael Fullan terms "projectitis." Some schools even seem addicted to external programs as they attempt to "close the gap" or "raise standards" or "meet the needs of all children" or "race to the top" or...you pick the buzz cause.

In the beginning QISA's work looks a lot like one of those bottles of sunshine, so it is not surprising that some teachers take a "this too shall pass" attitude. If you read the label, however, you'll see Aspirations work is more a list of ingredients than a recipe. And the essential ingredient is the voice of your students and their particular concerns, rather than some think-tanks 9 Scales of Individualization or a Matrix for Learning for Life based on national averages. Sure, the 8 Conditions emerged from 20 years of research into what helps students be successful in school, but I challenge anyone reading this blog to read the list and argue that any one of them is not something students need if they are going to be successful. Now mix in what your students are telling you is the state of those Conditions in your particular school and this too shall never pass. Students' aspirations walk into your school building everyday and always will.

I was in a professional development session yesterday for administrators in a large urban school district that has, no doubt, seen its share of programs come and go. When one principal raised the issue of teachers waiting out new programs, another responded that she had friends in other professions and businesses and didn't know of any that were not asked to constantly be learning and adapting to a changing world. As veteran educators, she remained mystified that some teachers think schools are so different that they don't need the same level of ongoing support. The superintendent--typically the one responsible for bringing in new programs--responded economically, "I would want to ask those teachers, 'What is the cost of your waiting it out?'"

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