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Sunday, December 8, 2013

Thinking from the Inside Out

Erstwhile journalists often encounter the following guide (the 5 W's) in their very first class on reporting stories - answer the Who, What, When, Where and Why as you prepare the article. Regardless of whether we ever aspired to become a news reporter, we've probably experienced a teacher who had us recite that phrase, or collection of questions, in the exact same order = Who, What, When. Where and Why.

However, here's an interesting and short video
that explains why that order is not likely to produce great ideas or movements. Instead, Why should be the origin and defining point of our existence. We should answer the Why, How, and What - in that order.

I would echo Simon Sinek's contention and suggest that public school leaders follow a similar conceptual progression if they want, or expect, to distinguish the organization they represent from competitors (private, parochial, Charter, home-schooling,..)  and survive in the midst of the many obstacles in their path.

We must truly understand our purpose if we want others to enlist in our cause or mission. And, our purpose in public education is not merely to sustain our job and security, or perpetuate what we found when we started in our career, or reach high rates of graduation, or achieve lofty standards of performance on state tests, or the many other issues or metrics that are commonly used to measure schools. The answer is much deeper than that. I liken it to reducing fractions to their lowest terms. It's a series of finding the lowest common denominators until you arrive at a point which can longer be subjected to the mathematical process and - 50/100 = 25/50 = 5/10 = 1/2.

Too many public schools have stopped short of reaching the lowest terms in our mathematical example above and settle at 25/50. To further complicate matters and distract attention and valuable resources from leveraging success, schools have become fixated on the What and How. Specifically, the current arguments over the direction and scope of the Common Core learning standards and other policy mandates (like the APPR [Annual Professional Performance Review] in NY) have focused efforts on What and How, at the expense of Why.

Daniel Pink, best-selling author wrote in his most recent book, To Sell Is Human: the surprising truth about moving others, - "In the new world of sales, being able to ask the right questions is more valuable than producing the right answers. Unfortunately, our schools often have the opposite emphasis. They teach us how to answer, but not how to ask,"  (p. 149)

The question we need to ask is Why our schools exist. Until we can arrive at that answer we cannot inspire others in the manner proposed by Simon Sinek in the video referred to earlier in this Blog post.

The Heatly School of Green Island, a small school with BIG ideas, strives to nurture dreams and sustain hope by growing learners of all ages, at all stages, in a positive and supportive learning environment with care and compassion.