How Schools Should Work
This week the small, private school that my children attend decided to ask one of the 11 children in their class to pursue his educational journey somewhere else. It has been an emotional couple of weeks for my family and has us asking questions about the nature of learning and our relationship to community. When we opted out of the public school system, I knew that I wanted to find a place where my children would be challenged to excellence with academic rigor and intentional character development. The reality of educating kids, however, is so much more complicated than the decision of where to send them to school. This week has me wondering how I can apply my BGI learnings about systems thinking and organizational planning to this little school with a big heart.
Peter Senge collaborated with a team of educators and organizational change leaders to write Schools That Learn: A Fifth Discipline Fieldbook for Educators, Parents, and Everyone Who Cares About Education. This book offers some key insights into how schools might evolve in the future:
Creating enduring change involves a 'deep learning cycle' - the interrelated capacity for change inside individuals and embodied in group cultures. Learning takes place in a reinforcing loop involving new awarenesses and sensibilities, new attitudes and beliefs, and new skills and capabilities. But turning that into action in an organization requires integrating guiding ideas, innovations in infrastructure, and theories, methods, and tools for building human capacities.
Educating for the whole self, involves the development of all nine types of intelligences: word, body, logic, music, nature, picture, philosophy, people, and self.
Curriculum shouldn't just think about how to teach reading, writing, math, or science. There are lots of different types of intelligent behaviors we want to see developed in each individual, including: persisting, metacognition, managing impulsivity, listening with empathy and understanding, sense of humor, thinking flexibly, striving for accuracy and precision, questioning and problem posing, drawing on past knowledge and experiences, creating, innovating, originating, thinking and communicating with clarity and precision, gathering data through senses, learning continuously, responding with wonderment and awe, thinking independently, and taking responsible risks.
The challenge I face, however, is that I am not in a position of leadership at the school. My ability to affect change is fairly limited in this situation. I am finding that it is infinitely harder to influence people who don't work for you. And I am beginning to learn that that the type of change I'd like to see happen in the world will require a more subtle form of leadership - one that inspires and motivates with a common vision and purpose. And I'd like to learn more about that.