21st Century School Culture

In Changing Education Paradigms, Sir Ken Robinson discusses the habits of institutions and the habitats they occupy.  While his intelligence exceeds mine by a factor of 10, I think what he is talking about is creating a collaborative culture of learning among all stakeholders of a school or institution.  Among other things, this culture must be truly collaborative--from top to bottom, or better yet, from bottom to top.  There are so many aspects to explore within this thought, but one that struck me recently is the general disjunction of professional development between administration and staff.

Office Space (1999)
It seems administrators attend one type of professional development and teachers a completely separate type.  There is rarely a crossover and it leads to groups moving in new directions separately.  This leads to a disjunction in collaboration, learning, and general sense of community within a school's culture.  This is a bad habit of many schools.

The trigger of a new direction may be out of the hands of some administrators, or it may be a choice, but it can come from many places.  A conference they attended, choices of a rival school, a recent book they read, an article in a publication only they receive, etc.  Either way--the problem is not a new direction.  The problem is a lack of collective community learning.  This problem is facilitated by a lack of communication.  Even in the best schools, communication between administration and teachers can usually be vastly improved.  

So how do we bridge this disjunction?  How do we foster a better school culture?  I think it can start with two simple habits.  Teachers and administrators attend the same professional development and fully participate (obviously not everyone, but at least representatives).  They don't sit in the back and play with their phone (teachers and administrators), they model the engaged participation they generally expect.  The second habit is weekly idea sharing among the entire community in one way or another.  An exchange and discussion of meeting notes, a shared digital "wall" online, regular staff meetings--something where new ideas are shared, reflections by the above mentioned representatives are shared, and new paths are chosen or at least discussed by the entire group of professionals.

Its about collaboration, its about community, its about buy-in.  If the soldiers don't buy-in to the battle plan of the generals, they won't execute it properly--then we are wasting time on enforcement and discipline.  This analogy applies to whole schools and individual classrooms.  Schools and educational institutions are really encouraging 21st Century skills, but it starts at "home".  A school's culture must employ 21st Century skills, build collaborative learning habits, and create the cultural habitat Sir Ken Robinson mentions--a model of what we expect in the classroom.

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