Opening up thinking about education today for tomorrow - Imagining possibilities and solutions

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Freeing up working lives

As I was sifting through some video clips I came across this one from Greg Whitby in which he talks about the development of 2 schools designed to deliver learning in today's world. It's a few years old now.

About 2:30 minutes into the video Greg states:

What we are actually on about is freeing up the working lives of staff. The current model of schooling actually enslaves teachers I believe. We tell them what time to start and when to finish….

What I'm saying is forget all that. You negotiate all that. I want you to be able to show to me that you've improved the learning outcomes for these kids through your interaction. How you do it, in what time and in what space, I don't care….

If you can do that in a more relaxed environment, that's fine by me. What we're doing is providing them and recognising them as professionals in their own right. Allowing them to make intelligent decisions. And that's been missing for so long. We've actually, through the schooling process, deskilled our teachers for far too long.

In my previous entry on "Does schooling kill creativity?" I wondered with schooling can kill the creativity of teachers to innovate.

As someone who has spent most of his career working at the system level I have been wondering whether, in seeking to deliver on learning in today's world, school systems adopt 19th and 20th Century approaches to professional learning and to managing staff that, in turn, deskills and deprofessionalises the professionals as leaders of learning.

Is there a danger that systems focus on managing the what and how of professional learning in the absence of systems to manage professional knowledge that is created?

Can school systems be as flexible and responsive to contemporary professional learning as is being asked of schools today?

Or have education systems, as we understand them, had their time?


Toni said...

You raise some interesting points here Andrew. I believe that systems need to be more 'in touch' with schools. They need to recognise that school leadership know the direction in which their school needs to head. I appreciate the support of the system - when I need it: not when it is prescribed to my school because 'someone' in the 'office' thought it would be a good idea!

Maybe I am speaking in general terms here - but it seems to me that systems shouldn't necessarily 'know' what is happening in schools but rather should be out in them working with them and enabling the professional learning at the local level.

Having just changed schools and systems I believe that I have been able to make it clear that I will call for 'system' support when I need it! I wonder if this type of leadership will back me into a corner or will give me the energy and drive that is needed to enable my staff to work at the level that they need to develop?

Andrew said...

Thanks for your comment Toni.

I like the notion of system leadership that Greg worked with in Parramatta.

I agree that professional learning should occur at the local level. I think that there is a system responsibility in working collaboratively across the system.

My experience is that many principals want to engage in conversations that support them in identfying a direction. We don't know what it is we don't know.

It's getting the balance right. As a person who has worked at an office level for a while I believe that I am passionate about ensuring the best possible learning for all students across the system. I also believe I have a responsibility to work with school leaders in working towards achieving this.

I hope you are enjoying Wollongong. Say hi to Peter Turner and Anne Marie Creenaune if you see them!

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