Something Greater

ACSR and the Education Department  at AUNE are tightly interwoven.  The overlaps between our work would make for a crazy spiderweb diagram if we were ever crazy enough to try to chart them.  One wonderful point of intersection has been a multi-year project between the folks at Otter Valley Union High School,the Mooslamoo Center, the Rowland Foundation and ACSR.  The work itself has been amazing (integrated curriculum, 9th grade academy, service learning and problem-based learning) but one unanticipated benefit to me personally is that last week I got to spend them morning with Sir Ken Robinson.

Yeah.  That Sir Ken Robinson.  Just the two of us- and about 300 other close personal friends.

He was the keynote speaker at the Rowland Foundation’s Conference on High School Transformation.  He was just as I expected him to be- charming, self-deprecating, and unflaggingly British.  He was also, of course, spot-on.  I’d intended to either Tweet or live-blog the speech but a dead battery and a packed room conspired against me.  He said two pages worth of amazing things (as evidenced by the chicken-scratch notes on the back of my participant list).  But here’s the one idea that I want to bring to you today.

“We collude in our own problems.”

I recently had a brief conversation with a small group of teachers charged with creating policy for their district.  As we chatted about the task before them, they bristled with anticipatory anger and frustration.  They just knew I (or someone else) was about to make their lives more difficult and they were ready to Fight Back.  It was difficult for them to imagine that no attack was coming- that the policy about to be imposed was first to be created- BY THEM- and cleared BY THEM before being rolled out.  They were in the driver’s seat.  They could change what needed changing, simplify their own work, create systems of support rather than bureaucracy.  By buying into a belief that the only possible result was a bigger, harder problem, they were inadvertently helping to create just that.

Here’s the truth that so many of us in education just refuse to believe:

“There is more freedom in the system than we realize or utilize.”  

Over and over I sit with teams and administrators who have transplanted a media-created, national perspective on the goals of the state DOE into our local context even though that picture is nowhere near our local reality.  They cling to some misguided belief that the state will “take over” their schools (not possible) or  that they’ll be “reconstituted” (unlikely) if they don’t make AYP.  They assume either ineptitude or malice on the part of those working at the state policy level.  They anticipate some giant state plot to intervene in their local schools as though they were either desired or possible.  They operate within tightly held constraints which may exist in other parts of the country but which Do. Not. Exist. in New Hampshire.

Here’s the thing: as I heard last week (and have been spouting for years), school is what happens for kids and teachers every day.  It’s local.  It’s about our kids and our work.  Yes, there is a national policy battle going on and some of it stinks, but ultimately, “We have the power to step outside our current circumstances and imagine something different.”

Period.

So get out there and imagine the possibility of something greater for yourself, your students and your school.  Then let me know how I can help make it reality.

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