Friday, August 24, 2007

Capacity Building: People & Conversations

"We're talking about a change in the culture of schools and a change in the culture of teaching. We know that when we think about change we have to get ownership, participation, and a sense of meaning on the part of the vast majority of teachers. You can't get ownership through technical means; you have to get it through interaction, through developing people, through attention to what students are learning."
~ Michael Fullan

We have to be careful with buzzwords. Thrown around without thought, they become perversions of their original meanings. "Professional Learning Communities" and "Capacity Building" are two such instances with which I am concerned. We have to be very careful that they have meat to them and are not merely empty structures driven by the status quo. More busy-work for teachers without intellectual freedom and openness to new ideas will not suffice. In my mind, the ability to listen and put ourselves in the shoes of others without being defensive is the key. We don't have to like what we hear, but everyone must be given a fair hearing. Only by having true conversations can we create cultures that are open to new possibilities.

To this end, I would like to suggest the ideas of Meg Wheatley, which I just came across this afternoon. Check out the reviews of her book, Leadership and the New Science: Discovering Order in a Chaotic World Revised , for an outline of her ideas.

A couple other books by Wheatley:

A Simpler Way

Turning to One Another: Simple Conversations to Restore Hope to the Future


1 comment:

George Crawford said...

I like the opportunties for exchange that some of these ideas present for the sharing of ideas and discussions with other teachers. I agree that teachers need to be open to new ideas and methods. We also need to be sure that we can listen to other teachers ideas and not being too critical.
The changing of schools requires a structure and it should not just be busy work that is meaningless in the end. It also should not be a push for a certain educational philosophy or fad.
The sharing of ideas and visiting other classrooms and schools often gives us new and fresh ideas as teachers along with professional development. We need to be try some of the new ideas and things we learn to make them work but we also should be able to reject them if they won't work for us or we don't believe in them.