90.365 falling (idea)ls

cc licensed ( BY NC ND ) flickr photo by ashley rose

When people aren’t given the opportunity to share their ideas openly, then some end up getting ripped off!

I see this in 2 ways:

1. We have people in schools with great ideas that never get an opportunity to be “heard”


2. We have people who share their great ideas only for those ideas to be passed on or used without credit

The danger in #1 is that great potential is lost which could lead to people feeling under-utilised.

The danger in #2 is that people may ultimately leave because they feel “used” and unappreciated.

I think organisations have the challenge of providing its people with a voice to eliminate or reduce these problems. How this is achieved is the burden of leadership.

Do you have any suggestions as to how to give voice to staff and create avenues where power relations are not hamstrung?


  1. Ingrid

    Ok, I’ve been thinking this one over for awhile, and I keep coming back to the idea of ‘transparency’. School leadership in all schools exists across a wide spectrum from completely closed, unaccountable (we make decisions for you, more quickly) right through to completely open with lots of discussion (we make decisions collaboratively, more slowly). Obviously ‘transparency’ is more associated with the latter, but may still be partially recognisable towards the middle of the spectrum.
    Here’s an example of a school that appears to be quite close to the ‘transparent’ end, although not specifically in regards to idea-sharing:
    There are a few links included so that the staff learning being undertaken is clear to all, as are the program’s short-term effects and benefits. To link this back to your idea to give greater recognition and voice to more teachers outside of the senior leadership team, the non-commissioned learning time described in the link could be followed up by a teacher plenary or report-back time later in the term where anyone who wants to could share their learning with others.
    The other key way teachers can share their ideas and voice is through electronic and social media platforms. It would be nice to think that where teachers have set up online PLC’s or even blogs like yours (or micro-blogs, e.g. through a fb page until they move on to blogs like me) that members of the SLT would ‘follow’ these people and give them quality feedback on what they’re doing and what they are thinking about.

    • rhonimcfarlane

      Hi Ingrid, thank you so much for your considered response. I agree that SM does provide great opportunities to reflect in a forum that enables leadership to see your views, that is if they read or follow you.

      Regarding my first point – “great ideas that never get an opportunity to be “heard”, it is impossible for staff to reflect or buy in to impending actions at school though if they are completely unaware. You may have someone with expertise or previous experience but if you are unaware of the upcoming event, you can’t contribute.

      Say a school admin is intending to implement a 1:1 device program but has not engaged their staff at all. How does this undermine the success of the implementation?

      This is also true of providing a voice for PD as you give clear example of. Giving staff time and space to share their success and innovative ideas can build awareness and reduce the isolation in which many teachers work. This is definitely worth developing.

      Regarding my second point – “ideas to be passed on or used without credit”, this is a matter of leaders taking credit for the ideas that are not theirs. This may happen because leaders feel uncomfortable with looking less adequate or less knowledgeable than the teacher or even strategically as a way to promote themselves. This will only happen when there are isolated discussions. If the forum is more open, people can’t take credit for other people’s ideas. I think this goes with a culture of hierarchy as being all knowing and omnipotent. To develop a culture where “sharing is the default” (@gcouros) and where all ideas are valued not just those of leadership, means providing opportunities to hear what is up for grabs. This does not mean we spend more time in staff meetings “sharing” information (dear God no). Instead, I think we should create spaces for open dialogue. Imagine if there was a writeable wall central and open where there could be discussions, ideas and comments added. Within my faculty we do this via shared googleDocs but I realise other staff are less motivated to use technology. Just thinking out loud!

      Thanks again for chiming in!

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