Do Different Things

cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo shared by creativecommoners

“Our mantra is that you lead by influence, rather than authority.” — Mark Chandler, Senior Vice President and General Counsel at Cisco

Reading the book, “The Global Achievement Gap”, by Tony Wagner (which I would say is a must read for anyone interested in education although it is highly American focused), I was highly impressed with how the author clarifies what he calls the “seven survival skills our students need”.  Here are the skills Wagner discusses below:

  1. Critical Thinking and Problem Solving
  2. Collaboration Across Networks and Leading by Influence
  3. Agility and Adaptability
  4. Initiative and Entrepreneurialism
  5. Effective Oral and Written Communication
  6. Accessing and Analyzing Information
  7. Curiosity and Imagination
I appreciate how the author bundles the skills in a package that is easy to read and gives educators a clear direction of how our students will thrive in a world that is changing quickly.
Although these skills are essential for our students, I wonder how well educators will implement them if the work environment they have doesn’t change alongside, where teachers will immerse themselves into actually implementing these skills into their own practice.  It is often said that our classrooms have not changed significantly in a significant amount of time, but really, has any part of school changed a great deal en masse for our staff?  How often do we spend valuable time discussing students wearing hats in school, during old and outdated staff meetings?  Are we using these skills that Wagner discusses in our practice?
You may see the skills listed happening in classes, or even schools, but only seemingly in small pockets.  How do we move forward to implement these in our schools?  Recently reading Lyn Hilt’s post on learner directed professional development with her own staff, I see several of the skills listed being fully implemented by teachers in their own practice.  Here is a snippet of what she wrote:
Then… the afternoon… the unconference! We’ve done differentiated professional development previously, including a Fed-Ex day and various teacher-led sessions during a district-wide technology day. In the past I would come up with a list of session ideas, plan the resources, run some of the sessions, etc. This time, I took a piece of blue poster board, whipped up an informal edcamp-inspired session board, placed some notecards on a nearby table, and asked teachers to sign up their conversation/session ideas to fill up the board.
Seem a lot different than the traditional first days back at school?  This reminded me of our own staff professional development initiatives at Forest Green School where all of the learning was led by staff.  It was created and differentiated to meet the needs of our learners and we did not bring experts in from outside our building.  We didn’t have to; they were already sitting in our school (you just have to open your eyes to them).
We need to go past just doing the same things with a little tweak here and there.  We need to do different things with our schools.  That being said, the practices that we implement with our students should be similar to what we do with our staff.  Chris Lehmann recently put this so eloquently when he wrote the following:
You have to be one school. You cannot want one thing for students and another for teachers…If we want classrooms to be active places, so must our faculty meetings be.   If we want to feel cared for by teachers, then we must care for teachers. If we want students to be able to engage in powerful inquiry, so must teachers.
For me, the easiest way to think of this shift for schools is to no longer treat them like the old model of business.  Even highly successful organizations such as Google, have a way different mindset in the way things work, and they look at continuously learning and growing as an organization.  The key words in that sentence being “learning organization”.
Want classrooms to be different?  Let’s look at the way we are embodying these shifts as adults first.
“Thus, work, learning, and citizenship in the twenty-first century demand that we all know how to think—to reason, analyze, weigh evidence, problem-solve—and to communicate effectively.” Tony Wagner, The Global Achievement Gap

One Comment

  1. Trisha said:

    I appreciate the *Shift in Thinking* clearly stated and have added the recommended read to my Shelfari Shelf. Super!

    September 11, 2011

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