Robert’s mention of Michael Fullen in a comment this morning leads to a repost of this article from about four years ago here on the PLC:
I was reading some of Michael Fullan’s work and saw in it support of what we are going though. We’ve talked about Fullan here before but this is a good revisit of his work in the sense that Robert’s report tonite carries with it the hope that we can finally begin at the district level or at the level of our buildings to confront each other in a positive and collegial way, in a way that brings positive results for the kids. Some of us are going through some intense confrontation now, more and more, as district honchos start to get a feel for what is really going on in the profession, and how dead the grammar approach really is. So if that confrontation is coming, why not make it collegial?
I am hearing from Fullan that:
1. Shared leadership is essential. This means, to me, no camps and no secrecy. Open and honest dialogue about teaching, and a lot of it. No one “camp” in power, forcing other teachers to comply or get out. There are many capable teachers choosing to investigate TPRS right now who are being shoved down by bullies (administrative or departmental) who are unwilling to hear what those teachers are really saying about what they think best practice means. This is professionally unconscionable. This leads to point two:
2. We each have the moral imperative to confront each other. I saw a teacher shake her head at a Susie Gross workshop last summer. I wish I had confronted her in front of the group. In that moment, she exemplified the unprofessional and careless dismissal of new ideas, and her rolled eyes betrayed an unwillingness to really hear what Susie was saying. Why didn’t she confront Susie? Aren’t teenagers the ones who roll their eyes? Next time, I will act, and ask her why she rolled her eyes. Clearly, she had heard something that upset her applecart. That’s what Susie does, to the great benefit of countless thousands of children each day, children she reaches through all the teachers she has been in contact with for so long now. That teacher I saw? No comment except one word – darkness.
3. “Brutal facts” are o.k. if they lead to change. I love this one. It means that if the grammar book sucked, used to suck, sucks, had sucked, will suck, would suck, will have sucked, and/or would have sucked, if that brutal fact leads to change, then, according to Fullan, it is necessary to state it and make it known. For those with ears to hear, this is what Susie does in each of her workshops. Some hear, some don’t.
4. We need the ability to thrive on chaos rather than cope. We have coped for a hundred years. But when Krashen published his first article, it kind of marked the end of merely coping with teaching, with our jobs, and the beginning of thriving on chaos, in order to make our jobs real, which we are in the middle of doing right now. When you look at the number of teachers who have not let go the hand of narrative methods, and who fight daily to align with ACTFL in spite of the immense book lobby, you know that yes, indeed, we can thrive on this chaos and we will not be beaten down by bullies. Still, a year later, I cannot get over Mimi Mets’ visit to Denver some years ago, to talk to 150 Jefferson County teachers about our craft, with, oddly, an aide de camp traveling companion hanging out in the back of the room all day who was a book rep from Realidades. C’mon Mimi! Whom do you work for? Is this another university/corporate partnership? Something fishy there.
5. School culture can change. If the foreign language departments in each school were to produce happy and excited learners, then yes, Fullan is right, the entire school culture can change around one flash point department. It just may be us! No longer the red-headed stepsisters of secondary education, we are fast becoming, each day, agents of change within our buildings and not just within our departments, all of us pushing the big rock up the mountain to its tipping point. How wonderful!