Today the South Australian Government and the opposition made announcements regarding intentions to make it easier to prosecute families of students who truant. AAAARRRRGGGGHHHH.
Don’t get me wrong, chasing up attendance and connecting with families, some of whom don’t seem to mind that their teenager prefers to stay home, is one of the most frustrating aspects of my job! However….and that is a BIG HOWEVER….. not for one minute do I think that the solution to any social issue is best addressed by punitive approaches.
If we want families and young people to value education we need to build communities that value learning, and hold teachers in high esteem. If we want communities to value learning and hold teachers in high esteem, then we need to ensure our system is able to facilitate opportunities that meet the needs of the diverse cohort and their families and has the resources to intervene and support when needed. We also need to build a Human Resources profile of teaching professionals that our community respects and admires.
But hey, that would take dedicated funds and time, not just a headline grab and or a term of government!
For two weeks this month I have had the fortune to work closely with staff and students in a school in a province in the North East of Thailand called Kanthalakwittaya, a co-ed school from years 7-12.
As an English speaking foreigner visiting Thailand, language becomes the greatest barrier. Beyond “hello”, “yes” and “no”, the majority of rural Thai do not speak, read or understand English. Additionally my Thai is limited to……. well nothing! It is no wonder that many who visit Thailand stay in Bangkok or popular tourist destination Phuket, where the influx of English speaking tourists demands the capacity to communicate in a common tongue.
This is however, not where the richness of Thai culture is experienced.
Kanthalakwittaya is a school without the bells and whistles of my own. Students are often amongst 45 peers in a class with concrete floors, broken wooden tables and chairs blackboards and chalk dust. No devices, no screens, no flexible furniture or spaces. Yet their is immense richness in their school community and by this I am not referring to the monetary kind.
Their wealth is in their kindness, their generosity, their overwhelming commitment to help each other and to share everything. Their caring, nurturing approach is evident and was demonstrated in every classroom, every staffroom and every home I entered.
Community is at the heart of Thai culture, in fact their school curriculum identifies it as one of eight “Desirable Characteristics” as “Public-Mindedness”.
Having an authentic Thai experience (and not the white tourist version), allowed me to see how very much my own community is disconnecting from some of the things that matter most. That in our schools, it’s not the bells and whistles that matter most as we all try and get as many “things” as we can, but indeed the opportunities we provide for students to do work that truly matters. Great joy comes from the happiness of others, from being part of family (related or otherwise), from “Public-Mindedness”.
It worries me, and the fact that it worries me worries me!
I am generally a very optimistic person. I like to focus on moving forward and finding solutions or alternatives rather than dwelling in the problem or “worrying”. I am also frustrated by scare mongering and blatant propaganda to incite mistrust and panic.
BUT….it worries me that we respond to a problem with solutions that treat the symptoms and not the cause.
There are several things that concern me about this clip, and whilst most of the comments and endorsements on his message express horror and concern that the minority report or worse is “happening”, I am more concerned that our solutions lie in deleting our histories, for them never to have existed.
Don’t get me wrong, I am an absolute advocate for privacy. I talk to students on a daily basis about protective behaviours, yet I also talk about being positive online and treating each other with respect.
At the core of it, these spaces only magnify a problem that is reflected and facilitated by these applications. When I walk down the street and someone “greets” another by sticking up their middle finger and the reply is something to the likes of “how are ya c…” it makes me wonder if the way we treat each other and expect to be treated is eroding in our community.
Maybe, I am just old fashioned?
Instead of a rise in anonymous messaging and self deleting applications, I would like to see us promote and foster plain straight forward decorum. Do we talk to our children or our students about “trolling“, do we talk about “haters” or even for that matter “doxxing“?
We all make mistakes, now these mistakes are often online. Shouldn’t we be teaching our children more about forgiveness, more about kindness, respect, human courtesy?
Couldn’t we teach our kids to disagree, without putting others down, without making it personal, without losing our cool?
I would rather see the rise of more @westhighbros than more of “this message will self destruct”.
What do you think?
Integrity means that you are the same in public as you are in private. – Joyce Meyer
For me integrity is a principle I hold paramount. It is trait I admire and respect in others. In a school setting it means that regardless of who walks through your room, be it a peer, a parent or the principal your behaviour and the way you teach remains the same. It’s acting and following through on promises, and letting your actions speak for you. It is not expecting others to behave or act any differently than you expect of yourself.
It also means that you speak and treat people with respect regardless of their prestige or title. I find it extremely pernicious when people dismiss the ideas or beliefs of others based on their perceived worth or usefulness.
Modelling integrity for our students, expecting that they treat themselves and others with respect and be reliable and trustworthy will support the development of a community of responsible citizens.
“Your reputation and integrity are everything. Follow through on what you say you’re going to do. Your credibility can only be built over time, and it is built from the history of your words and actions.”
— Maria Razumich-Zec
Education leaders such as George Couros and Stephen Harris are always seeking ideas and examples from beyond the education arena to develop and strengthen learning and leadership in schools. I think there are many lessons to be learnt from corporations as they continually reflect upon what contributed to their success or their failure.
I am not suggesting in any means that schools should fashion themselves entirely on a business model – our core business is kids, not making a profit, but I do think the more that business looks at building success on the basis of developing relationships and connection, the more we can learn from their change journeys.
This morning I read this article by Alexa Clay – “5 Tips for Growing Changemaking Communities in Your Company“. Clay puts forth the importance of building an entourage which she describes as;
“people who bring you energy and ‘get it’ Your entourage is what gets you through the darker times and plays a much needed role in keeping you going when things appear stuck”
Clay says the following in which I have added the alternative (schools) or (classrooms) substitute:
And corporations (schools) aren’t merely collections of individuals. Corporations (schools) are communities. Behind every business (school) is an environment where people are looking to find connection, fulfillment, and identity. And yet, within and across cubicles (classrooms), it can be so hard to connect on a human level. So how do we bust through? How do we generate communities to really unleash game-changing innovation within big corporations (schools)? And how do we grow our entourages into truly powerful networks of change.
For each of the 5 tips Clay suggests to move towards developing changemaking communities I have included a ‘school’ alternative.
1. Visualise your relationships
Company model: …. go beyond the usual suspects and think about organizations or communities you might never engage with …Map out these actors and understand their competencies and points of leverage within the system. Then spot areas where a shared agenda could emerge.
School model: there may be people in your school that have a passion or interest in what you’re trying to achieve. Don’t assume it will always be the same people who put their hand up for everything, develop opportunities for support staff, parents, families, ex students and others to be involved in what you’re trying to achieve.
2. Find your counterparts
Company model: …make sure that you connect with like-minded intrapreneurs within these organizations. Systemic collaborations require an enterprising spirit to be ignited and sustained. So find the right allies in other organizations that you can rely and depend on to accelerate these types of initiatives. You’ll save time and energy by working with others who share the same mindset as you.
School model: Connect with people who share your passions both in and beyond (local or global) your school. Develop a network of educators on the same journey and share and build from each other. Utilise #twitter , google+ or other ways to connect and share and forge the development of your community.
3. Practice code-switching
Company model: Be able to shift how you communicate, depending on your audience–know the right language to use depending on your stakeholder. Part of building community has to do with knowing how to translate your prerogative into the language of others.
School model: depending on whether you are engaging with your allies, leadership or those whom may be resistant, your communication will need to change. No point going full blown excitement on a peer that is reluctant to change anything at all, save that for your ‘counterparts’
4. Foster a subculture
Company model: …at times, it might feel like the culture you’re trying to create is not reconcilable with the culture of your organisation. Ask yourself what is the delta behind the culture that is and the culture that you are trying to create. And the delta should be fairly small. Most people don’t like massive change.
School model: Change is hard! Start by developing a small culture which you can cultivate and grow eventually infiltrating the rest of the school.
5. De-couple your entourage and your ego
Company model: Communities don’t revolve around one person. Nor should the success of an idea or innovation be dependent on one person. To be successful you need to be able to democratize ownership of your ideas. Beware of isolating yourself with a community of enablers. Get the “scary people” within your organization or from the outside to champion your work. They are key in getting your ideas to scale.
School model: Make sure there are people within your community who are willing to question and challenge ideas (critical friends). Success will be measured not by what you envision on your own, but by what is owned within a vision.
“most game-changing ideas are 10% epiphany and 90% relationships and community building….People don’t just lean in to ideas; they lean in to communities where they can discover purpose and meaning.”
“Good things happen when you get your priorities straight” – Scott Caan
This has really come to the forefront in my practice at school. It has actually been at the heart of how I choose to spend time on things I am passionate about and how I use my energy. Let’s face it, what’s the point of saying “I don’t have the time for that”? Be honest and say “I would prefer to do something else” or “I don’t value that enough to give it attention”.
At the beginning of the year I really wanted to develop our class blog and use it as a tool to share in ‘real time’ the learning from school to home. I have always provided the weekly news with photos and student work but I knew the blog would provide an opporutnity for parents, families and friends to interact with what we were doing during each day.
That was the plan. Term 1 passed and I did construct a blog and there was a post which welcomed visitors to the site, but that was it. So was it really a priority? Was I allowing other things to get in the way? Was it a goal that was worthy of more time and effort?
I decided that yes, it definitely could have a positive impact on our community; students, families and friends. Having made this decision, I had to make a commitment to ensure the days, weeks and months didn’t disappear without action.
So I made a commitment, a priority to post something about our learning three times a week. It has led to our students, staff, families and friends becoming involved, interacting and owning it. You can check it out here: http://wirreandaunit.edublogs.org/