It's easy to blame. Just think back to childhood and the first time you did something you were ashamed of, like stealing some cotton candy. The gut-reaction? "He did it!"
You need a face to blame. Yet, when it comes to a problem as ambiguous as the school system, it's not okay to blame the system because the system doesn't have a face. Which explains why when one grows red in frustration at the faulty education system, it makes sense to blame teachers or school leaders or parents. What if, however, it's the system itself that's to blame?
Take teachers for example. Seth Godin teaches us that fear in the workplace drives the motivation of employees. No one wants to get fired because we have that mortgage to pay and food to put on the table for the children. Godin's research on fear, or as he calls it, "the lizard brain," ties in that like most people, teachers fear being fired. They want to respect their school leaders' protocol. That's proper manners, after all.
Teaching is not much different from other white-collar work. Take a highly educated autonomous scholar and then slap on factory-like, systematic rules and you get a highly skilled test-preparer who needs the next paycheck to pay the mortgage and feed the newborn.
Can you now sense why teachers are frustrated? They too want change. As do their leaders. As do you.
So, where do we start?
School is one giant bureaucratic system and teachers are just one cog in the machine. To make change happen, teachers need to know what they can do to be the change they want to see in transforming education. Most teachers know that the system is no longer workingbecause we no longer live in an industrial economy and school runs on an industrial model.
Teachers, like school leaders, need a simple and poignant directive on how they can help be the shift. This could, of course, start with creating a workplace where innovation is accepted -- if not demanded. Force teachers to use their degrees without slapping down professional development packets that tell teachers what they do. Allow them to think for themselves and value this. Autonomy is humanity's greatest gift. Chip and Dan Heath, two Stanford professors, write extensively on this. To make change happen on a large-scale, you need a simple directive to move an emotional elephant.
One not-so-simple step begins with creating a culture of innovation. Allow schools to become what they need to be -- a place where innovation and creative use of content drives personalized curriculum.
Here are five steps for school leaders to build this culture of innovation:
There you go. Creating a culture of innovation is no easy task, especially in a school system that is run on the industrial model of school bells, periods and desks in rows. You can change this, of course, and that would be a big risk. So, start smaller -- bell by bell, step by step.
Follow Mark W. Guay on Twitter: www.twitter.com/markwguay