Idealism versus reality

For many of us, summer is a time of learning and preparing for the new school year.   Like our students, we start the new year fresh and full of optimistic ideas, for trying new teaching strategies or introducing new web tools or technology or changing our program.

What happens when that optimism bumps into reality?  That is a real struggle I have been having the last few weeks.   

Sherry, at Technically Speaking, has written a very heartfelt and powerful post articulating her start of school frustrations that probably reflects many teachers’ feelings.
Too often we end up having to channel our passion into fighting obstacles, rather than into our own practices, which can be exhausting, disheartening, and frustrating.

I’m sure it’s the same frustration some of our own students feel, who may be brimming with idealistic ideas, but bump into the realities of how “school” works, or “schooliness” as Clay Burrell calls it.

I believe we are on the brink of great changes in education, and I see this on my own campus.   But with change comes friction.

Scott McLeod wrote an excellent series on change at Dangerously Irrelevant earlier this year.

In one post, “Can Schools Change,” he shares a model from Phi Delta Kappan which illustrates degrees of consensus.  In the model by Christensen, Aaron, & Clark, consensus is determined by leadership tools, as well as how much agreement there is about the goals of organization and “about what actions will lead to desired results.

I think sometimes we get so caught up in the infrastructure, departmental turf, tradition, etc., that we sometimes don’t realign ourselves with our own goals as an organization.  And sometimes we don’t even really know those goals or agree on them.

A couple of nights ago on WOW2, there was an interesting but unresolved discussion of leadership and technology, and the speakers pondered whether technology leadership was different than other leadership.   I don’t know the answer to that, but I do think that it is very important for all of us on a campus to have these discussions about what our goals are, and to really try to use that mission as a defining guide for our decisions. 

Hopefully in most districts the goals have something to do with kids.   We also have to agree or come to a consensus on how to achieve those goals, and that is the other friction point.

I do think where a leader can make a difference in libraries and technology is by smoothing the way, by making sure the infrastructure pieces are in support of the school mission and goals, and by making sure the policies in technology departments or libraries or the school in general adhere to the underlying principles of those goals.

Leaders do have a real power to reduce the amount of friction that their risk takers and leaders experience.   Nothing is more discouraging to a student OR staff member than to enter school brimming with hope and passion and enthuasiasm, and having that stymied and squelched, or to be lost in a labyrinth of bureacracy. 

We want teachers and students to be able to be passionately engaged in what schools are all about, learning.   And most of us, both students and teachers, who feel great passion for what they are doing realize what Sherry wrote.

“I remember when I went in my classroom and just taught my kids. Life was simpler then. I can’t go back to that now, but need to figure out how to go forward.”

I’m hoping that teachers with the courage to ask the questions Sherry asks help us all move forward, so that idealism and reality in schools are not at odds with one another.

One thought on “Idealism versus reality

  1. Thanks for all the support and advice. My blog is still standing but we will see if I am soon fired! 🙂 I have started making a list of what I need and why and will approach it as I am certain they are willing to help me be a successful teacher. Who knows, maybe they just need an explanation.

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