That’s not a given

Discard an axiom

I loved hearing Will Richardson say at the Iowa Association of School Boards conference last November that ‘curriculum is a strategy.’

Because he’s right. Standards are a strategy. Bell schedules are a strategy. Bubble-sheet testing of low-level recall is a strategy. School calendars, grade levels, siloed content areas, instructional methods, grading systems, discipline policies, and sit-and-get, one-and-done professional development sessions are all strategies. All of them. None of them are given. None of them are essential, handed-down-on-a-stone-tablet components of schooling. They are all voluntarily-employed strategies that can be modified. Or deleted.

If we’re going to change learning experiences for students, we have to stop thinking of legacy strategies as givens. We have to put things back on the table for consideration. We have to move from ‘yes, but’ to ‘why not?’ and ‘how can we?’

Or we can stay stagnant, content to tweak around the edges of mediocrity.

[practice saying with me… “You know, that’s not a given. We could change that.”]

Image credit: Oblique strategies, Bastiaan Terhorst

6 Responses to “That’s not a given”

  1. Once, I was with a group of teens planning our yearly activities. We had always gone sledding in December. I just penciled that in on the calendar and was challenged by one of the kids as to why why.

    “It’s tradition,” I told him.

    “Why does that mean we have to still do it?” was his question.

    It’s a great question. I don’t remember if we chose go sledding that year or not. But I remember to challenge things that we think we have to do, just because it is the way it has always been.

  2. I use to think…..this type of thinking was helpful for schools and districts. I would leave conferences inspired and pumped to do some radical changes.

    However, now I think….the educational structures are becoming too large to move. Best if we can make small ongoing positive changes, push back when necessary, but also recognize what can be done within the parameters.

    I worry that it is becoming too easy to lob unrealistic changes at these conference audiences and not provide solid examples of where some of this change is already going on (in regular public schools—- not fancy Private schools or special charters)

    • Rob,

      Many of the schools on these lists are public schools, not just private or charters:

      http://bit.ly/OFZndg
      http://bit.ly/1GZ5OMr

      And even most of the schools that are not ‘regular public schools’ are doing things that easily could be done by traditional public schools if they so chose. In other words, it’s mindset first and foremost…

      We can find excuses not to change and innovate: http://bit.ly/1GZ5Wvo

      Or we can roll up our sleeves and get to work, no? I choose to dream big because we get further than if we accept existing parameters as unmalleable givens…

  3. I agree, schools needs be flexible and creative to engage students and develop deeper learning. Rethinking how and why we do things will open the door to evaluating and modifying current strategies promoting further student success. Just as we understand there is no one way for all students to learn, there is no one way for all schools to function. I am excited about the changes happening in education now. Thanks for the awesome perspective.

    • I also firmly believe people learn through revision and reflection. I have revised my paragraph to include correct grammar.

      I agree, schools need to be flexible and creative to engage students and develop deeper learning. Rethinking how and why we do things will open the door to evaluating and modifying current strategies promoting further student success. Just as we understand there is no one way for all students to learn, there is no one way for all schools to function. I am excited about the changes happening in education now. Thanks for the awesome perspective.

  4. Kristi carriero Reply May 12, 2015 at 8:24 pm

    I absolutely believe that change is necessary and school leaders need to be at the forefront of this “new” thinking. I agree that the school system is almost too large to move but it is the responsibility of the communities to put people in place who are willing to take risks when it comes to education. Obviously the outdated system and practices that we. still use as strategies are not working. Unfortunately, politicians believe that new tests and new standards will drastically change education in America, but I feel that we need to change the “its always been done that way” and start saying “we can change that” but mean it. When hiring new administrators, schools should be looking for leaders who have this passion and vision for making changes that will impact both teaching and learning and ultimately promote student growth.

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