Well, I’ve just finished teaching at the California League of High Schools Annual Convention in Sacramento. This marks two conferences down since I’ve re-engaged in training. I have chosen to address several topics. One is a “How-To” workshop called “Building a Solid and Effective Digital Video Program”, and the other two are more relational; “Creating a Catalytic Classroom” and “Building Student Leadership Teams”.
I must say that, although I have a pretty solid track record in leadership development, I was really not prepared for the response that I received at these two conventions. Yesterday afternoon I must have stayed after class for at least a half hour discussing specific issues about teams. We weren’t talking about students though…. we were talking about teachers and administrators. The questions that I was getting had to do with creating a sense of team in public schools. I think I’ve struck a nerve!
When the walls started to come down I had a group of teachers who desperately wanted to be a part of something bigger than themselves. They wanted their leaders to lead and had a desire to feel empowered to teach. It took a while for me to understand this, but what they really wanted was not only to be a part of a team, but to see what their role was on the team. Of course they were empowered to teach their subject, but what they were thirsting for was…… well….. to feel wanted and to know that they were really making a difference. They acknowledged something that I have been watching for the last 7 years, and that is that high schools staff’s function more like a complex of small businesses than they do a like minded organization.
I believe that we are on the threshold of change. The gap between teachers and administrators is too wide. The philosophical difference between how employment in education functions and how the real world works is no longer acceptable. Many teachers have lost their passion for the students and have traded this for just trying to keep their jobs. The intimidation that young teachers feel from administrators is not okay! While successful organizations are building mutually supportive teams and creating vision, we in education have accepted the hierarchical approach as the norm.
It’s time to reevaluate what we’re all about. If the passion that I heard from these educators is any indication of what’s out there…. We have an opportunity to bring real positive change not only to our schools, but to education in general. Yes… it’s a huge task and it’s not going to happen over night. The the first step to making serious change, in any area, is to be honest, and I mean real honest, about the problem.
We can continue to complain about our situation, or we can stand up and create a new culture. And… if we fail? Well then, the next generation of leaders will know what they’re up against by seeing the direction of our blood splatter (metaphorically, of course!). And….. that is something worth giving our lives to, and perhaps for.
And ya know what… It’s kinda cool to be a voice in the process. Just a thought!