"Every generation needs a new revolution" (Thomas Jefferson)
Is your school (or university, college or department) ready for, if not already leading, the education revolution?
Although it is obviously not possible to do everything at once and although there are many constraints on what can be achieved such as a lack of resources, the following questions as put to us by many principals, teachers, parents and students may be useful:
- Have school community members (teachers, parents and students) been given the PD and training they need to really work together toward real educational change?
- Is your school developing a strong governing body that really empowers staff and the community?
- Has your school organised a community dialogue about the big ideas in the Blueprint for Education and Early Childhood Development (such as a coherent birth-to-adulthood learning and development system or schools as community hubs)?
- Has your school developed its own shared, whole school community understanding and policy framework for 21st century teaching and learning?
- Do the strategic and implementation plans at your school focus as much on school transformation as on important improvement and literacy and numeracy targets?
- Does your school have shared school-family-community goals in its strategic plan? For example, the goal that all students become successful learners, confident and creative individuals and active and informed citizens.
- Is your school a part of a wider educational change effort in partnership with a university or college?
- Is your school developing a learning community such as a P-12 cluster of primary and secondary schools (and planning the curriculum from a more coherent perspective)?
- Is your school capturing and monitoring the learning from its innovations in education?
- Is your school reorganising itself around a small number of key leadership positions and high-level teams (focused on the main ways to improve learning outcomes for all students)?
Many schools may obviously answer ‘no’ more than ‘yes’ to these questions. But what matters, of course, is how a school is:
- Building on the many things that it has already achieved
- Focusing all efforts on the next stage of its development.
Are you personally ready?
Whether you are a principal, teacher, parent or student or working in an education department or university/college, once again (as teachers, parents, principals and students suggest) you may also want to ask yourself and your friends and colleagues:
- Are you really listening to students and young people who prompt us all to stretch our thinking and reshape our practice?
- Do you really look for ideas and evidence that do not confirm your own assumptions and beliefs?
- In discussions, do you often ask challenging questions (as a genuine invitation for others to think about and respond to) rather than only seek to give 'good' answers?
- Are you both an idealist and a street-smart pragmatist? Or do you struggle with this old 'either-or'?
- Do you have a brains trust of people who are thinking afresh about the possibilities in life, work and learning?
- Do you have a high tolerance for heretics? Heretics ask ‘why’ and ‘what if’. For example, in the case of education and schooling, what if ... schools weren’t organised in traditional ways? ... leadership was pooled across schools? ... a group of primary and secondary schools joined together?
- Are you a heretic yourself?
- Are you helping to build an effective grass-roots movement for real change (in education or any other area)?
- Are you both extremely sceptical and open to new ideas? As the great Carl Sagan put it: "It seems to me what is called for is an exquisite balance between two conflicting needs: the most skeptical scrutiny of all hypotheses that are served up to us and at the same time a great openness to new ideas. Obviously those two modes of thought are in some tension. But if you are able to exercise only one of these modes, whichever one it is, you're in deep trouble. If you are only skeptical, then no new ideas make it through to you. You never learn anything new. You become a crotchety old person convinced that nonsense is ruling the world. (There is, of course, much data to support you.) But every now and then, maybe once in a hundred cases, a new idea turns out to be on the mark, valid and wonderful. If you are too much in the habit of being skeptical about everything, you are going to miss or resent it, and either way you will be standing in the way of understanding and progress. On the other hand, if you are open to the point of gullibility and have not an ounce of skeptical sense in you, then you cannot distinguish the useful as from the worthless ones. If all ideas have equal validity then you are lost, because then, it seems to me, no ideas have any validity at all" (1987).
In a word, are you leading the education revolution?