Developing Wisdom in the Service of Learners

This quote from Barry Schwartz always makes me think:

Rules and incentives may improve the behavior of those who don’t care, though they won’t make them wiser. But in focusing on the people who don’t care—the targets of our rules and incentives—we miss those who do care. We miss those who want to do the right things but lack the practical wisdom to do them well. Rules and incentives won’t teach these people the moral skill and will they need. Even worse, rules can kill skill and incentives can kill will.

In a conversation with a group of educators, we were talking about some of the “rules” in school that are in place to “guide” staff.  I asked teachers in the room if they had ever broken a “rule” to do what is best for kids in the past year. Every hand went up.

I say this to groups all of the time; if the “rule” trumps common sense than the rule could actually inhibit more than empower staff.  Here is the thing…Personally, I don’t want to break rules, and many educators feel the same way. I know there is the saying, “Beg forgiveness instead of asking permission,” but that puts people in a very uncomfortable situation. We sometimes are asked to choose between following the “rule” or doing what is right. As Schwartz argues, “wisdom” does not flourish in a space where there are too many rules.

So here is a simple idea.

Ask your staff, and make sure they know that they are encouraged to share openly, what “rule” have they had to break to do what is best for kids? Then, revisit the “rule” and see if it is necessary.  What conversations would come from this?

The image below is meant to help with these conversations. Just something that has me thinking.

Source: George Couros

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