Tuesday, March 3, 2009

The Journey To Theory...

So many conversations with so many people. This needs to change. That should be like this. Everyone of the ideas I have read about, discussed or debated have been outstanding in their own right. How do we go from conversations to real time change?

Well if you look at versions of change theory, the first action is to create the need for change. Create an urgency if you will. Why would a school board, district staff want to make changes unless they saw a reason for that change. Why would a province, for that matter, look at curricular change if what they were doing seemed to be working. This is easy enough to do on a small scale (i.e. stop sending paper memos to staff and only provide critical information on email to help staff move to using email on a daily basis).

How do we initiate large scale change?

For practical reasons, let's start by looking at the public school calendar and schedule. In our province the majority of schools are open September - June with 2 weeks off for Christmas, a week off in the spring and 2 months off for summer. This schedule hearkens back to a society where agricultural needs took priority over urban needs. Children were needed to help with the harvest. Most schools schedules can trace their origins back to allowing children to do their farm chores in the morning before getting to school and then home in time to help with the farm chores after school.

This does not come anywhere near the current societal needs. Many families now have two working parents desperate for caregivers who can watch their children from 7am-6pm. The pressure on our school system and day care system is daunting. Can we find a way to partner all the current players that raise our children. The axiom that it takes a community to raise a child has never applied more than in today's context.

Public schools, parks and rec., musical theatre companies, sports organizations, art schools, private businesses, and trades organizations should all be working together to provide a smorgasbord of opportunities for our students. Not just at the high school level, but all the way down to early childhood education. In addition, we should be working with employers to encourage parental involvement in their child's learning and the parents should be learning along side their child. It would take a complete societal paradigm shift. "School" would no longer be the industrial revolution based institution that churns out a work force. It would become the experiences that teach children to be productive citizens.

The schedule of schooling would differentiate for each child. Parents would be able to expose their children to the entire matrix of opportunities. You would have to integrate teacher shifts, experts coming in to teach, field experiences. You would have to be an incredibly creative accountant. You would have to have the political will to prioritize the education of our children. Private/public partnerships would have to be entered into so that funding would not be a crippling barrier. School facilities would be used year round from early morning into the evening. It would all be integrated. The teachers would become facilitators of educational experiences. They would ensure that children were meeting a required set of opportunities. They would be charged with ongoing parent communication where descriptive feedback would be the norm. There would be no marks or structures of comparisons needed. Our "system" would get onto the edge of learning for each child. Parents would have to be more involved in their child's education. Employers would have to be prepared to incorporate their employees having to schedule their work day around being involved in their child's educational experiences.

Collaborative technology would have to play a major role in making this a reality.

It would take a societal paradigm shift.

Is this overwhelming?

Where is this happening?

Where do you start such a large scale change?

Why is the current education system like a giant elastic band. You can stretch it a long way but it always eventually springs back to its original shape. How do you snap the elastic band?

Your thoughts are encouraged.


@elaan said...

I like the idea of having an education system where, as students discover their interests and strengths, they can be streamed into programs that are more or less appropriate for them. The regular academic system doesn't work for or apply to everyone, and sometimes all it accomplishes is a way to make certain kids feel like they are "stupid," when in fact, their brilliance hasn't been identified yet.

Streaming into particular programs would have to be flexible though - because people discover their interests and strengths at different points. Meaning it wouldn't work if there was general educational exploration until grade 5, and then you have to be in a specialized program. Perhaps it should be more like post-secondary, where you can do a general Arts degree or a liberal Arts degree, or you could specialize. How could this be implemented at the elementary level? Hmm.

Back to your point, Dave, is the fact that it would take a huge shift in our thinking, and support at all levels of society. How do you even start such a thing? I am going to mull this over some more before I comment on that. Thanks for the worthy food-for-thought!

Frank Pearse said...

**Warning Knee Jerk Reaction Below**


Good points and well written. However, I am left wondering if you are leaning in the wrong direction? Should we try instead to turn back to more 'traditional' methods of raising our children ourselves, with our own values? I would worry that this type of system would work to further distance ourselves from our own children.

Again, knee jerk reaction, will continue to mull it over! Thanks for the thoughts.


Dave MacLean - Elementary School Principal exploring pedagogy, technology and the odd educational epiphany. said...


knee jerk is a valuable response. So says Gladwell in his book "Blink". I agree that we need to be more involved in raising our children. That is why we need to coerce employers to get on board and create work schedules that allow us to be a part of the educational experiences that this paradigm would suggest.


I like the idea of a flexible system that allowed children and families to explore strengths and then pursue what make them happy. Please see Let Rabbits Run post.

I look forward to your deeper thoughts. Thanks for the comments

Sarah Fraser said...

Good questions about large scale change which is what I am interested in. We're grappling in healthcare with the need to find out how to influence system transformation - how much can be structured and pushed on a grand scale, and how much happens through the small actions. My experience so far is it is a bit of both.

www.spreadgoodpractice.blogspot.com has some the thoughts and lessons so far.