Transparency -> TRUST -> Social Capital -> the Community Allowing a Certain Degree of Risk-Taking

I consider myself somewhat of an innovative risk-taker when it comes to education. I love working with/along side fellow educators who challenge the status quo and break free of the traditional mold. As I expand my horizons and continue working with educators from other districts and other states, I occasionally see overwhelming levels of trepidation from educators and school officials when it comes to making changes or “rocking the boat.” In addition, some of the pushback comes from the communities in which these districts are located (which could be the reason for the trepidation on the part of the educators and school officials). In certain districts, I’ve attended informational sessions for parents regarding potential changes being made, where these sessions have turned into full-blown debates. At times, these debates have gotten so heated the educational administration has had to end the meeting in order to “cool down” and reconvene at a later time.

Many people think that because they’ve gone to school or that their kids are in/have gone to school, they’re experts in the field (example: politicians who have no teaching or administrating experience in education crafting and implementing policies). I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard the assertion (or similar sounding assertions) “Back in my day…”, “I went to school during the golden age of American education…”, or “This is the way we used to do it.” Unfortunately, there never really was a golden age of American Education. As Ravitch points out, there never was a time in American education when everyone succeeded in school. American students were never very good at taking standardized tests (like the Long-Term Trend NAEP) compared to other nations. I wish more communities and policy makers would understand this or at least be aware of it.

I see the formula in the title as a way of possibly encouraging the community and education officials to allow teachers and administrators a certain degree of risk-taking. As school representatives, we must be transparent concerning our intentions, and our intentions must be aligned with what’s best for students. Transparency helps build trust with the community (schools decide how they want to go about being transparent. Will it be through an active social media presence or through more traditional channels like a newsletter?) When the community is constantly informed/aware of the amazing things going on in school, this helps build trust. A simply Google search of “social capital” reveals, “social capital is the network of social connections that exist between people, and their shared values and norms of behavior, which enable and encourage mutually advantageous social cooperation.” Again, being transparent will help build trust which then helps lead to mutually beneficial social relationships and cooperation between the school and the community. Ideally, this synergy will help parents, community members, and other stakeholders understand that innovation and change aren’t bad. Both are hard and may not always work. However, as times changes, our schools must keep up.

In the end, the formula helps demonstrate the notion that we’re here doing this job to help kids. Trust us. We want what’s best for students. We may not always get it right (especially the first time). But, that doesn’t stop us from wanting what’s best for kids. Innovation failure will not deter me from wanting what’s best for kids.

It’s No Longer A Matter Of “If”, But “When”…

I think about challenging the status quo and innovative strides in education in the context of our current reality regarding technology and automation. I don’t mean to sound like a conspiracy theorist or a doom and gloom preacher. However, being as prescient as possible, many have predicted what awaits students when they leave school in the next decade and beyond, and I can’t stop thinking about it. Some of it is scary. The notion that robots will be taking over may be somewhat farfetched. Yet, the reality is, many of the occupations we know of today will change and some will be completely automated. That being said, major shifts in the education system may be needed to prepare students to work seriously with technology. We continually hear of the push concerning the preparation of students to succeed in the 21st century, but for many, school looks a lot like it did 10, 20, 30, 40, and even 50 years ago. We can’t sit around and deny that it will happen. It’s already happening. It may take longer than some futurists predict. But, it will happen. Innovative strides in education must occur. We must remain current. I’m not advocating for teachers, administrators, or schools to abandon things we know work. However, we may need to broaden our scope when considering the notion of preparing students to survive and thrive in a world that is rapidly changing and shows no signs of slowing down.

Thoughts?  Feel free to comment/share/and follow!

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