Friday, August 19, 2011

Are You Ready For a Flat School Organization?

 For the last week our school has joined the thousands of school districts across the country with back to school preparations.  This process usually provides professional development (PD) in topics particular to the school, the district, and the state.  They also provide PD in topics related to areas of concentration and might include classroom management techniques or trainings on new technologies adopted by the school district.

     At our school you might say it is just as I described with one major exception.  Our staff is small (29 teachers) and we pride ourselves in all being leaders of the school.  Because of this, and the fact that every one of our teachers is incredibly passionate about his or her subject and PBL,  these meetings can, um, not sure of the right word here....be ...interesting(?).  
     Allow me to give you a taste.  Our school grades students on Learning Outcomes (LC's).  They are based upon 21st Century Skills and are: Written and Oral Communication, Critical Thinking, Collaboration, Work Ethic, Numeracy, Global and Community Engagement (GCE), Tech Literacy, and Content.  The school district has chosen 5 of these to use in every school.  Our very first task, then, was to look at the district's wording for the 5 LC's they are using and compare them with the wording of the corresponding LC's for our school.  In short, all we have to do is decide if we like their wording better, our wording better, or should we change our wording to a combination of the two.  How long could that take? 

     After 15 minutes we were still wrestling with the first LC and our principal turned to me and said, "I should have known, with this group, it wouldn't be easy."  We finished that first task within about an hour.  Then came an examination of the other 4 LC's.  We had to decide: (1) Do we want to keep the LC?  (2) If we keep the LC, do we need to change the wording?  (3)  How does each LC relate to the other LC's and the Content?  (4) Do we need to have a content grade if the other LC's can cover the content through the way the rubric is written? (5) How often do we assess each of the LC's - during each project, during a grading period, or during a trimester (our semester)?  And a few other questions.

     When the smoke cleared, about 3 hours later, we had decided that every LC, with the exception of Numeracy and GCE, would be assessed during every project.  Numeracy and GCE will be assessed at least 2 times during each trimester.  That, is now the official statement.  But each teacher, group of teachers, content teachers, grade level teachers and any other combination of teachers (I didn't just mention), can assess Numeracy and GCE more often.

     To recap: Our Principal came to us and asked us to look at the district's Learning Outcomes and determine how our Learning Outcomes compare.  We then decided whether to keep our original list or make some changes based upon the district list.   Our discussion, cut short because we were at the end of the school day, had taken over four hours to complete.  But, every single teacher gave input.  As a matter of fact several of us took turns facilitating the conversation and made sure that everyone had an opportunity for comment.

     We are a group of individuals who like to give input.  We like to dissect problems.  We like to have a voice in decisions.  We ask questions of anyone and everyone.  We are a flat organization.   There are many teachers who say they feel that they don't have enough say in what goes on at their school.  I wonder if they realize what could happen if suddenly they were given more of a leadership role.  One thing I know is that time would become their enemy.  

     Be careful what you wish for - you might find yourself in charge of a facet of running your school organization.