This may be a bit of a stretch but please stay with me. I included a clip of the final fight scene from The Avengers for a couple of reasons. First, it is just a really cool movie and one of my guilty pleasures. Jerry Seinfeld has a theory that all guys sort of see themselves and low level super heroes so comic books and cartoons are really more like instructional magazines than they are fantasies. I know I am as guilty of this as anyone but perhaps that is not a bad thing when it comes to our role in education.
The real reason I choose to include The Avengers clip is to introduce a new topic that I am looking at in relation to our staff development: collaborative inquiry. I am very interested in this idea as a way for a staff to inform and potentially, control their own PD. I have been looking for a better model of PD for a school as I have grown tired of listening to people either complain about useless, ministry-speak PD sessions or about the fact that there is simply not enough time to really reflect and think about their profession. I think that collaborative inquiry is an answer to both these issues.
There is a lot of interest in the theories and practical applications of The Third Teacher concepts in our school but I have had a hard time finding this place in the myriad of PD offerings that are centrally available to our board. I understand that this is not something that can be easily done centrally as each school has its own physical realities and so it would be impossible to offer a generic, stand-alone session. And quite frankly, thank God for that!!! This is the perfect situation where the practice of collaborative inquiry could be perfectly employed. This is where a school must be given the resources and supports to work through the process of learning and building together. We need to be allowed to be like the Avengers.
For those unfamiliar with the plot of the movie, The Avengers are a collection of amazing superheroes, (Earth’s Mightiest Heroes actually!) that come together to face a common foe. They don’t get along all that well at the beginning probably because they are so skilled and individually special that they have trouble meshing and becoming a team. This can be similar in a high school especially. In an environment with silos called departments and teachers being asked to be “subject experts” it can be hard to come together in an educational conversation because most of them work their way back to subject specific topics. Perhaps this need not be the case with The Third Teacher. The idea of learning environment is a common foe that all my teachers can tackle and can come together to offer their particular gifts. There needs to be a leader (Captain America), a keen and critical eye, (Hawkeye) those with particular talents and abilities (Thor, Iron Man, Black Widow) and of course someone who just pushes through and shakes things up, (The Hulk). This can be a subject that a lot of different people can get behind and move forward.
What is my job in this process. I genuinely hope it is multi-faceted. I understand that I as principal need to facilitate the process and look for ways to free up my staff and offer resources and support to make the learning happen. This has already been put into motion as our SSLN will be focussing on The Third Teacher and so there are resources and support that is attached to this. I have also been soliciting support from our community in the way of donations and already have some commitments and will look for more. (click HERE to see some examples) I know that my role will mean that I will be a facilitator and enabler for my staff but I certainly hope I have the opportunity to be a learner as well.
I think that perhaps this is the key to a successful collaborative inquiry within a school. When the leader, whether it be an administrator, dept head or lead teacher, is also one of the learners then it can succeed. If I was to just arrange for release days and sign cheques then my own committment to the project would wane. Trust me, I am asked to perform these functions far too regularly as it is. When I am engaged in the learning and the process, then I will get more out of it and I will be able to add my own particular talents and abilities to the group and I know the project will be served by that. I am truly looking forward to this process as I embark on it really starting tomorrow with our 21C Steering Committee and I will certainly be blogging more and more about it.
PS. For those wondering about what superhero this guys associates with. I guess there is an element of Captain America a bit but truly I have to break from Marvel and get to my roots with DC because as a kid I always thought of myself at Aquaman. I loved to swim and I would be lying to you if I said that still when playing with my kids in our backyard pool that I did not still slip into that role from time to time. There it is, secret is out!