December 19, 2009
“If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up the men to gather wood, divide the work and give orders. Instead, teach them to yearn for the vast and endless sea.”
– Antoine de Saint-Exupery
There’s good provocative thinking from Umair Haque on the Harvard Business Review blog: The Builders’ Manifesto: 20th century leadership is what’s stopping 21st century prosperity.
With everyone on the leadership bandwagon proclaiming the need for leaders and leadership, it may be time for a fresh perspective. Because – whatever is needed – from health care reform to education to action on climate change – we don’t seem to have it. Haque writes:
Dear World Leaders,
This relationship isn’t working out…. We’ve tried to make it work. But it’s not us — it’s you (really).
Haque’s hypothesis is that the word “leader” feels like a relic of the 20th century and that rather than try to train better leaders we need to reboot the concept.
He contends that it’s a myth that leadership is a set of timeless skills and points out that leadership can be both powerful - and bad. And it is certainly true that the graveyards of the 20th century are littered with the consequences of effective leadership.
Institutions are broken, he says, and their dysfunction means the old model of leadership cannot work. The answer he says not leadership but “about ‘buildership’, or what I often refer to as Constructivism.”
Haque includes some interesting contrasts between leaders and builders: Sarah Palin v. Nelson Mandela; Ben Bernanke v. Mohammed Yunus. He has others from a variety of fields, and his commentary provokes thought.
In education, constructivism challenges the default mode of sage-on-the-stage, all-knowing leader-teacher whose job it is to transmit knowledge.
It’s a meaning-making theory of learning that maintains that individuals create or construct their own new understandings or knowledge through the interaction with what they already know and believe and the ideas, events, and activities with which they come in contact.
Knowledge is acquired through active engagement rather than imitation or repetition. A constructivist classroom is characterized by active engagement, inquiry, problem solving, and collaboration. Constructivist teachers help students by encouraging active questioning and challenging learners to form, reform, and refine their ideas and understandings in an active and social context. Multiple perspectives, intellectual diversity and engagement with the real world are taken as a given. Knowledge is not out there to be taken in, but derives from interaction and engagement as the learner builds a personal world of understanding. It’s a social process, and it means that you have to do something – intellectually and/or physically – to learn. And caring – i.e. motivation – matters.
So back to the Builders.
Haque concludes with a list of ten principles that contrast bossism/ leadership with buildership. My summary is that builders (constructivists):
- believe in community
- are motivated by the desire to change things for the better
- are inspired by what could be
- work to show why the destination matters
- draw passion for the enterprise, and
- are there every step of the way.
And to distill it further: Builders believe in, and work for, a mission and a vision founded on values.
Do these ideas apply to institutions like schools and to school leadership?
December 19, 2009
December 9, 2009
December 7, 2009
This summer I the quite wonderful Hancock Shaker Village. It’s where in craft and design, form meets function with simplicity and beauty. So many interesting things to see and pay attention to.
Of course – I had to visit the schoolhouse, now separated from the main buildings by a busy highway.
The school room was bright and well lit and seemed both familiar and welcoming. The shelves held books, quills and slates. There was a stove with a long pipe, and a teacher’s desk at the front and on it a handbell. Student desks were in rows and tall windows framed pleasant vistas in spite of the road.
The date on the blackboard was 1898.
At around the same, a French postcard presented a view of the school of the future – the year 2000. The same room, students still in those desks and rows. But now knowledge has been mechanized. Knowledge as represented by books is fed into a hand cranked mincing machine (at least there’s one active learner!) and directed to the heads of passive students via electrical circuits dropped from the ceiling.
It all looks like the nightmare of an isolation chamber/ computerized/ learning laboratory devoted to mind control.
December 6, 2009
Enjoy the drawing. But but then read this: Shifting Ground from Chris Lehmann.
From the Chicago Tribune 1958. (But only one child distracted by the flying machine outside the classroom?)
December 6, 2009
What’s changed? Pretty much everything.
A question to get going with:
Shopping and information then and now: If you want the best dishwasher or digital camera or know how to remove turmeric stains from linen or why there’s a sudden infestation of ladybugs – where would you go to figure it out?
And for most people the answer would be: online.
What did not change in that equation was the desire for the product and information. And wanting to be informed.
But let’s not confuse the map with the territory and destination.
In school technology changes everything. And nothing. Children are the same. But they experience the world differently than a generation ago. Fortunately we have some amazing and empowering tools to help us to fulfill our mission to develop educated citizens with a passion for learning and living. And the tools are all around us, and them. The question is – are the tools in use? Or in digital detention?
It’s not about the tools – just as it never was – but the learning, the meaning, and the purpose. And it’s not just about doing things more efficiently or faster – it’s about agency and access, empowerment and transformation.
And for a reminder of just how much has changed in the way we conduct our, here is a quick slide show memory jolt from Dangerously Irrelevant on the pace and breadth of technological impact on (almost) every aspect of life, work, and leisure
December 5, 2009
Oldie but goodie. An irresistible cartoon from the Syracuse-Herald Journal 1991
From another era…or…?