Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Cross Hairs

I was reading a post on a former colleague's blog and my comment for him turned into a bit of a diatribe... perfect for a post here!!!  So... here it is...

Your positive attitude is appreciated, but there has to be room, especially among principals and leaders like yourself, for skepticism, critique, and deconstruction of the gov't vision for the BC Ed system. If we don't put plans (of any kind) in the crosshairs, it is too easy to build self-justifying narratives that make the plan's assumptions seem indisputable. Depending on the agenda, constructing these narratives can also make the "plan" look inevitable, like it is part of the flow of history, or original, like it has never been tried before. An example is the rhetoric around 21st century learning. As you've posted before, it can be about the 7Cs etc., but it can also be about privatizing education, replacing teachers with commercial services, downloading the costs of public education to the users (esp. re technology). It is used to describe project-based learning, embrace AFL, PLC, DL, PL, develop group skills and habits of mind, accept vertical corporate integration in delivery models and student data systems, even new school building construction, school closures (brick and mortar is old school, apparently), hiring practices, both liberating and restrictive tech policies, etc. Too broad to be a movement, or even a school of thought. We live in the 21C, so duh. Let's go 22C or 26C if we want progress. At some point in there we get to fight aliens for sure.  Anyways, the first task for educators going from either harsh critic or loyal supporter to a habitual critical inquiry is to step away from the jargon. I've followed your posts and contributions to educational discourse for a while and I think you are gradually getting the buzzwords out of your parlance... keep it up! It is so neat to see how your staff and school reflect the value you place on teamwork and creative thinking. While I don't always agree, your ideas and approach to educational theory are very positive and will have the most impact when you can stand apart, just a bit, from the "managed message" that is so apparent in the BCED plan. The hard work is facing the task of putting all of it in the crosshairs and allowing the authentic parts to make sense in your context... a slow reveal, usually, but worth the patience. I've noticed other BC principals and superintendents starting blogs, etc. and most are hopelessly locked into the jargon and don't appear to be coming from "selfs" the way yours is. Most of them don't allow comments for fear of the inevitable critique from jerks like me. Most repeat the ubiquitous videos and quotes on "21C"ish topics. But, they've got it started. The majority are still not ready for a web presence, and will find it hard to lead teachers into any kind of "21C" until they realize we are actually wanting them to set their ideas out in a place we can examine them. Our district (57) seems to have slipped 10 years back in terms of the teacher-district partnerships that used to support technology (you'd be shocked to see how the momentum is gone and distrust has taken its place), and I think one thing our leaders can do (on both sides of the admin gap) is to abandon fear and let their "selfs" loose on the old interweb, crosshairs and all. This interactive landscape should not be about career moves and reiteration of cliches, but about horizons of significance (to borrow Taylor's term) and rigorous discourse. I've directed a few of "them" to look at your blog and think about how they may wish to begin a thoughtful web presence. Good luck, keep it real.

1 comment:

Thielmann said...

Came across this today.. fits the topic. I don't usually give my trust to "official" positions, like those of my union, but this one was not bad.

Education renewal brings nothing new

Set against a background statement of unremitting change, BC’s Education Plan announced by Minister George Abbott contains beguiling language but no substance. Throughout the document a vast gulf separates what government aspires to do from the reality evident in today’s underfunded classrooms.

Scant mention is made of students with special needs. Only a statement about “effective intervention strategies and supports available to teachers, students, and parents.” Does this mean rehiring the 1,500 learning specialist teachers that have been lost over the last decade? Are they going to eliminate the year-long wait-lists for diagnostic testing?

There is no mention of class size or composition, yet enthusiastic descriptions of dynamic opportunities in distance learning and smart use of technology, as if it were the solution to all our problems.

There is much emphasis on technology, smart phones, and iPads in classrooms, and the involvement of parents in their child’s learning without a thought as to whether this is possible for a majority of parents struggling to make ends meet or living in poverty. As it stands, implementing this plan without full funding will mean students from wealthier families will have an even greater advantage over their lower-income classmates.

Contradictions and myths abound:

Learning is to be personalized, yet there will be ongoing provincial and local testing and a rigorous focus on the “basics.”

Teaching is to be flexible and creative, yet there is to be mandated professional development tied to ministry objectives and policies.

Teachers and the system needs to be dragged out of the last century, yet teachers and education are, and have always been, agents of change and are the first to embrace new methods and technologies.

Parents will have choice on what, how, when, and where their child learns. How is this possible for working parents and who will be responsible for all these children outside of school?

Funding and support for schools, teachers, and students continue to decline and it is easy to suspect that behind the rhetoric of change and faith in the magical properties of technology, lies nothing more than a means to make further cuts.

Education is far more than the transmission of inert information. It is a meeting of minds that requires face-to-face interaction with a teacher, not a computer screen.

Susan Lambert, President
BC Teachers’ Federation