I love this RSA video because it speaks to the spirit of collaboration and innovation. It speaks to how an organization or community can create environments where innovation can happen and where singular good ideas can “bump into one another” and become innovation. In his work on Professional Learning Communities found within the context of Project NeXt, Kevin Kerr talked about this type of collaboration and how important it is for individual good ideas to come together and then become bigger and better. This is where great movements or real change occurs because a loner is never going to impact change because one person can only consider so much. You need multiple perspectives and ideas to make a concept relevant and usable for a large community. In short, we NEED COLLABORATION.
So the question then is how to create such an environment in a school system that is already taxed with time restraints and in teachers that already have so many tasks as well as a union presence that resists the idea of “mandated professionalism”. That may sound harsh but it is a reality that school and board leaders have to take into consideration.
With this in mind I think that the educational community has to look at more prudently using their release time and really looking at being proactive about how they use them. We need to look first to create a situation in our schools where teachers are encouraged to expect innovation from themselves. This means giving great examples of innovation and allowing principals to support the ones on staff that show a tendency for creativity and collaboration. As a principal, I would look to support and encourage the “professional judgement” of my teachers, but mine as well. This is where the key is for me:
While teachers have professional judgement, the principal does TOO!!!!
So I would look to exercise my professional judgement to support those that are looking for ways to communicate and innovate with their peers. Release teachers to work on things that they want to instead of attending board mandated PD sessions, unless that is what they are requesting. I don’t want to disparage central PD offerings, (God knows I have organized them for the past year!), but they have to be organized so that they too look to build on the ideas and passions of the educators. If a central PD initiative can be constructed based on the input of the individuals attending and then supported by the expertise of central staff, then you have a recipe for good ideas shown in the Johnson video above. I think the TCDSB is moving this way with our proposed SSLN model, but I truly hope it takes off and gets traction in the coming years.