A TIME TO INNOVATE
I admire the people in the Obama administration who in the midst of an economic
upheaval see the opportunity the difficult times ironically provide to address
difficult issues like providing universal health coverage.
Great leaders see opportunities in the worst of circumstances.
On my way to work this morning, I was listening to a BBC interview with
the CEO of Cisco Systems, a company that has been central to the development of
the internet and an organization that prides itself on its encouragement of
innovation within its business. CEO
John Chambers, while acknowledging the challenges in the business environment,
talked about then opportunities for innovation and speculated that those
companies that tucked in their heads to wait out the economic storm were
infinitely less likely to survive than those that boldly try to position
themselves for the inevitable recovery.
Part of the innovation at Cisco according to its leader is a very rapid
movement from a command business structure to a more collaborative one.
Modern management, Mr. Chambers maintained, understands collaboration
between workers in an enterprise as the engine of innovation and quality.
Although the recently enacted federal stimulus package will protect most
Our state and national unions will oppose most of the reformers and
attempt to do business with others on stupidities like pay for performance.
They will probably get themselves and us co-opted with the result that we
will be left with schools that are no better, probably even worse.
The bureaucratic structure of our schools will go essentially
unchallenged, there will be no imaginative ways to ensure teacher collaboration
and in the end a generation of children will be undereducated.
In Plainview-Old Bethpage, we will maintain the status quo. Many will see that as an accomplishment, including I fear some PCT members. On one level, I suppose it is. But in a much more important sense it’s not. But what might we have been able to accomplish if we had seriously challenged the status quo, rethought our educational priorities, re-engineered the bureaucracy to make it supportive of innovation and excellence, began to build a professional, collaborative work environment in which people’s sense of ownership generates new ideas and common purpose. Just yesterday, I had an experience that reminded me that such circumstances could come about.
As part of our union’s campaign
to elevate the academic standards and expectations of our district, we’ve
formed a number of union committees and invited central office to participate.
Yesterday’s meeting of our literacy committee had a dozen teachers and
one administrator sitting around a table at the union office discussing what we
might do to deal with the fact that young children are entering our schools less
linguistically able than they have heretofore. They
weren’t being paid a cent for their participation; they were all tired from a
long day working with children; most of them looked forward to going home and
having to parent their own children. Yet,
in the afternoon, they sat engrossed in a thoughtful, stimulating exchange of
ideas that I think is going to lead to some new kinds of collaborative,
professional meetings that just may begin to give us the beginning of a new
approach to the language deficits of many of our elementary students.
Several of them made the effort to e-mail me that evening, wanting me to
know how much they had enjoyed the discussion.
How different their experience was from the command model of staff
development they regularly experience.
In a school district that was serious about improving so-called educational outcomes, such meetings would be a part of every teacher’s workday.
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