From Reliance To Alliance

After reading ed4wb’s post on April 10, I have been engulfed in thinking about his statement,

If we are to make progress that actually helps lead us toward well-being, then schools will have to move away from fragmentation and independence as ways of thinking and instead, redirect educational efforts toward system thinking, connectivity and cooperation. Even though connective pedagogy is never going to be as easy as the highly formulaic and devised-for-convenience model of today, it’s what is sorely needed to help overcome the major challenges of the day…

Wow. Now match this up with DuFour’s work regarding Professional Learning Communities and Wiggins’ and McTighe’s UbD work and you have a quite a potent cocktail to sip and savor.

So it’s been over 14 days since the ed4wb posting. Every spare thinking moment and has lead me back to the concept of Interdependence in schools. I took some time to create this crude visual:

Seems to me that education, in general, is stuck in the Independence model. Evidence? Mission statements, school beliefs, practices (like ranking and “student of the month”), and even the much loathed supervision methods. You know how it goes, I come into your class, watch you teach, observe student interaction and participation, then give you some feedback. It’s very much about the individual, not the culture or the community. This is exactly why I prefer alternate assessments for teachers. More on that in a future post.

Some thoughts on leading/coaching/moving to a culture of Interdependence in a school:

  1. Acknowledge. What state are we in? Are we dependent upon the chain of command to get things done? Are our students and faculty happy just being left alone to do their thing? Identify the present to get to the future.
  2. Speak. Dependent cultures begin to move toward Independence (and you can’t get to Interdependence without first being Independent) by establishing a sub-culture of healthy dissent. Much like a child, the dependent organization needs to break free from the control and begin to move toward Independence. Stifled Dependents can begin with the most powerful tool educators have – the art of speaking out and persuading.
  3. Persuade. A building or district leader can’t expect or demand Interdependence until the culture sees and experiences benefits from collaboration, sharing, and team-designing. I start small by building coalitions and small PLCs just to wet their appetites and allow them the “aha!” moment.
  4. Model. Why would anyone follow or believe in some one’s message when their practice is unconvincing? Thus creating a culture of Interdependence calls for leading as an Interdependent. Ask faculty for ideas, request points-of-view, dialogue, delegate, and celebrate the small acts of collaboration and teaming.

There has been a lot of talk recently about teacher’s being treated and seen as professionals. I can think of now better way to remedy this than to allow teachers to pool their knowledge, abilities, talents, research, and information, fostering collective and collaborative designs, to create and develop curriculum, spurn initiatives, and implement projects. PLCs, PLNs, and UbD are excellent ways to begin to move from a culture of Independence to Interdependence.

Now, if we could only take this concept one step further… from the faculty room, to the classroom. That’s an interesting thought.

Author: Michael Parent, Ed.D

Father, husband, school administrator in NJ. "Education cures poverty".

2 thoughts on “From Reliance To Alliance”

  1. Mike – found you from your comments over at Dan's site.

    Thanks for sharing your reflections on this! As I read through your descriptions I realized that the different states are not so static. My administration is very keen on having teachers collaboratively plan units following UbD. But for just about everything else in the school, such as major initiatives, policy decisions, etc, it feels like we are very dependent. Our views are asked for but it rarely seems like they are recognized / listened to. I work at a private independent school, and I think that the model of “dependence” starts at the top with an over-involved board.

    The result of this is a school that feels a bit “Jekyll & Hyde” – some great things happening in the classrooms, but a strong undercurrent of frustration.


  2. Jeffrey,

    You are totally right about these states not being static. In some ways some aspects of schools are all three of these at different times.

    As an administrator, I will keep your perspective in mind – what I sometimes think is happening may nit really be happening.

    This si why I love blogging… ideas are morphed by discussion and the sharing of perspective.


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