Michael Fullan

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!



4 thoughts on “Michael Fullan”

  1. A powerful example of a philosophy that sucked, used to suck, sucks, had sucked, will suck, would suck, will have sucked, and/or would have sucked.

    School Culture Can Change…
    I am working on this in our department now. It’s hard to go from 9 sections (of 35-38 students) of Spanish III to 47 signed up for AP. It breaks my heart and I work too hard to teach those students in levels I, II and III.

    I am trying to be the department chair that plays fairly, that welcomes all philosophies as long as they meet these 4 goals. We are starting the dialogue, but I find myself unwilling to budge on my philosophy and I found this year that I have compromised some of the strides I made. I haven’t been as active as I had been. I attribute that to Yearbook (which I resigned from yesterday), Spanish classes, being a new department chair, and new personal relationships. This period of inactivity caused me to regress a bit.

    This post causes me to reflect on our department, its goals, and its future.

  2. Sorry Ben , don’t know where to put this one.

    Corporate America has been dating Education Reform for a while. Although the marriage is shaky b/c they don’t share the same ideals and values, it looks like divorce is not in the foreseable future. It’s like oil and water, they can’t mix b/c of chemistry laws but they can cohabite together .

    Looks like Pearson may soon dictate what will be taught in our schools nationwide.

    Don’t weep , read this article and get ready to fight…..

  3. I’m doing TPRS and I have one colleague as well with gr 10 French doing it. I presented TPRS, showed people the basics, and the other 4 French teachers have said “that’s nice” and totally ignored CI stuff. We also fail to have any remotely interesting discussion of anything other than minutiae and administrivia at dept meetings. No looks at research, practice, etc, or idea sharing. Leanda and I set up a TPRS PLC this year for mutual coaching and for any dept members who wanted to learn– an hour every 2 weeks for 5 months would totally do it!– we invited the dept, and nobody showed up. So Leanda and I are coaching each other and it’s cool.

    I feel like, I have made the research and new practices available to others, and they have said “no thanks.” So I don’t really know what else to do: other than teaching TPRS as well as I can do, and speaking my piece at dept meetings, and advocating provincially, I’m at a bit of loss as to how to advance the cause.

    The Punjabi teachers, however, are intrigued…they have (crappy) native speakers in their classes, and so are teaching mostly writing…but they see the possiblities. Both are going to the Metcalfe & Ramirez presentations at BCATML and have come to our TPRS plc meetings. Why are they interested and open to TPRS? My guess: because they didn’t go through traditional Canadian methods classes, which are generally heavily biased toward French, and whose profs are often ueber traditional and elitist and often far and long removed from real classes. They, like Leanda and I– and most Spanish teachers I’ve met– didn’t actually learn methods in Uni; most of us qualified to teach in another subject and picked up language assignments along the way. And so we’ll do whatever works, rather than what we got taught. Of all the TPRSers I know in the Lower Mainland, 90% are teaching Spanish or other non-French languages.

    (A former colleague, who’s a great French teacher, told me of her oral entrance exam for SFU’s French teacher training: the examiner showed her a tech diagram of a road bike and said “decrivez les compenents du velo” or whatever. The examiner fully expected her to know words like “derailleur” and “front forks” and “shifter cables” and whatnot en francais. She failed and had to get into French by actually teaching it in a high school. She later became dept head, Provincial curriculum writer, bla bla).

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