What Are You Doing To Threaten The Status Quo?

Recently Will Richardson shared an article about an upcoming movie called Waiting for “Superman.” This article from New York Magazine really made me think about what I am doing as a building principal to threaten the status quo in public education. I am fortunate that I work in a district in which the first time I met our Board President, he told me he would be disappointed if I didn’t take any risks or didn’t try to create something new and different. I know not everyone works in a district like Van Meter, but we all have the ability to threaten the status quo.

What are we doing at Van Meter to threaten the status quo?

Some would say this:

  • Providing laptops to students in grades 6-12
  • Embedding technology in most lessons
  • Providing meaningful PD through development of Professional Learning Communities
  • Time for teachers to collaborate by changing start and end time of school day
  • Focusing teacher learning on the 5 characteristics of effective instruction
  • Skyping with people all over the world including the creators of Sweet Search, YouTellYou, and Diigo

All of these suggestions are great things we have going on as a district, and it will improve the quality of teaching by our teachers. But how much is it really changing the status quo of our school? I would suggest really not that much.

Wait a minute. Did I just say that what we are doing at Van Meter is not a threat to the status quo? I did for these examples that I just gave. Technologies have always been

a part of education, teachers have always had some level of PD and prep time, we all know some strategies are more effective than others, and students have had guest speakers at school for years. So really, none of these changes are really that different from what we have always done.

If we are going to change the status quo, we

must truly challenge what schools were designed to do, educate the masses to be relatively the same at relatively the same time. How are we doing this at Van Meter? We are:

  • creating an environment in which everyone is a learner.
  • empowering our students and teachers to control their own learning.
  • ensuring opportunities for students to learn within their own passion.
  • providing the support needed for our students/staff to be life-long learners.
  • allowing students/staff to demonstrate their learning in multiple ways.
  • becoming creators of content instead of consumers of content.
  • taking risks to challenge students/staff to not always do it like its always been done.
  • trusting our students and staff to learn the necessary skills when they see fit.
  • being flexible with our time.
  • allowing students to show mastery and moving on instead of waiting for the rest of the class.
  • developing a system that puts the learners needs in the middle and adjusts everything else about school around those needs.

I am sure there are more things going on than what is listed, but our end goal is to create a school that empowers our students/staff to THINK, LEAD, & SERVE as global, digital citizens in this ever changing world. We must be willing to take the risks necessary to challenge the status quo, or we will never have the lasting impact necessary to change what “school” looks like.

What are you doing to threaten the status quo of your school?


  1. Deron –

    Thanks for the thoughtful post. It is funny that you mention the technology because we have been getting a lot of press at my school lately due to some newspaper articles on our school’s move to 1:1. As you know, this is not really a big deal. Just adding technology to our current system accomplishes very little. What I really want to see is perceptions start to change here so that we start to view ourselves as a community of learners, much like what is happening at Van Meter.

    I think I will ask my teachers what they think they are doing to change the status quo and ask students what they think we should do to change the status quo. We have a long way to go, but I would rather fail miserably trying to change the way we operate than to simply maintain the status quo!

    September 7, 2010
  2. Dave Meister said:

    Great post Deron! The status quo lives because of the fear of failure….. When will we realize that failure is one of the greatest teachers? We must encourage risk taking by staff, students, our communities and most importantly from ourselves.

    September 8, 2010
  3. What am I doing to threaten the status quo?

    1. Measuring data different from the norm– not just SAT scores but critical thinking and problem-solving (CWRA), and student engagement (HSSSE).

    2. Like you, and Patrick, going to 1:1 laptops at my school, and inviting, even encouraging, students to suggest to their teachers how they can use them in their learning and demonstrations of learning.

    3. Leading teams of teachers to visit other schools, and critically reflect on what they are seeing there, at schools like High Tech High and New Technology High School.

    4. Adopting late start days two days a week and using the time for teachers to meet in critical friends groups to really reflect on their teaching.

    5. Blogging!

    September 9, 2010
  4. Deb Hanson said:

    The most important act you are doing is “trust your students and teachers”. That alone will shake up the status quo. Good for you, Deron.

    October 3, 2010
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