You have probably already guessed that this is one of my favorite books knocking off my long time favorites The Fifth Discipline and Schools that Learn both by Peter Senge.
I love the quote form the director of Pella. (Indeed, for Rick Hassman, director or corporate applications at Pella, continuous improvemnt is a passion. "Where innovation comes in...is figuring out the right problem to be solved, the right question to ask, and then figuring out a better way to solve the problem. You can't just come up with a solution for today's problem. Nothing stays the same.")
I think this not only applies to how we should approach our charge as educators, but also indicates what we should be emphasizing with our students. We have to figure out the right problem to be solved. This was discussed with those teachers involved in the RTI work with Lynnae. The questions have to are the kids performing, if not why, is it what we are asking them to do, their lack of essential skills to do it, or the (HOW) way in which we are asking them to do it? We know certain things about the students we are attempting to work with and thus can use that knowledge to tailor our attempts to engage them. They are social learners learning best through interaction with each other. Their worlds truly revolve around them. They post or tweet their every move on social media cites like their actions are of great interest to millions of people. As we discussed the Thursday or Friday we met together, these attributes can be exploited. Most of them are not lazy, they just don't have a real interest in what we have to say. They are, however, willing to seek out answers to questions they develop or we give them. They will spend time exploring a concept, discussing a topic, and create a defense their position. However, they want to spend that time using their tools and in their digital world not the paper, pencil and PowerPoint world we are comfortable in. They have fundamental skills with technology and would much rather do things on the computer than with paper and pencil like I still use. Exploit these characteristic we know to be consistent among most of our students.
We have a number of our staff,l you all being the majority of that group, who are becoming more and more innovative and more and more comfortable working in the "digital world" they live in.
The co-teaching I have pushed for is an example of that innovative spirit. You are doing some awesome things and moving in what is being painted as the right direction. However, with any innovation, there has to be constant reflection and willingness not only do some different things but the even harder job of stop doing some of the things we are currently doing. I built and entire pole barn which I then had to take down and begin to rebuild because I made a couple of mistakes. There was a story which by the way ended up on the front page of the Freeman Journal. If I had stopped then, we would not have gone on to build a large number of houses, two of which were over 5000 sq ft and consisting of materials amounting to over $300,000 each. That was fourteen years ago. We, Dick Kennedy and I, did this with students. Neither of us had built a house before or even been in charge of a large edition. We took a huge risk and things did not always go well. The students in the program were not the A students attending school at that time but rather a group of young men and a couple of young ladies that most teachers thought were lazy and lacking of intelligence.
You all recognize that we can not teach the way we were taught nor focus on preparing students for the standardized assessments we think we are judged by. You might have noticed, they don't care about those assessments and those assessments really don't end up being a real indicator of eventual success.
Wagner outlines the seven survival skills which are actually introduced in an earlier book you are free to borrow. He then goes on to list a multitude of other skills or qualities that he argues can be taught, nurtured and mentored. How many of the qualities or skills he mentioned do we currently see in ourselves and how many are we developing in our students? We can not take credit for what staff or students came to us with or currently have but rather seek ways to expand or increase these skills/qualities in ourselves, the rest of teh staff and our students. We all have to assume the role of learner and strive to attain the qualities of the innovator.
I particularly like the paragraph about how elementary students come in with enthusiasm, curiosity and creativity until we "teach" them that the right answer is more important than a thoughtful question or looking at things from multiple viewpoints.
We are not alone in our need for reflection and change, colleges are also now facing the need to change their practices largely due to highly successful college dropouts who went on to develop or work at companies like Microsoft, Apple, Google, Facebook etc... as well as companies who would much rather have individuals with practical technical skills and problem solving ability over those who hold a diploma which signifies that they were able to consume and then regurgitate large amounts of information which can easily be accessed by a middle school student with a smart phone.
I look forward to hearing what you took from the first chapter and any comments you have on what I have posted.