25. Transformation: Who Teachers Become as Much as What They Do

The new learning infrastructure depends on our ability as a culture and nation to transform ourselves. To become different kinds of human beings.

People who build bridges must be more than automatons trained to do particular functions over and over again.

Being Sensient creatures allows us to do more than what nature programs us to do robotically. Nature has given us an ability to adapt and transform ourselves to become creative, assertive, and sensitive.

The SAC’s first effort associated with the “Walls Analysis” is procedural. But that procedure is much more than a step-by-step activity. It is the first action that validates teachers as professional decision makers.

In the new learning infrastructure time and money must be allocated in sufficient amounts to do the job right.

No unfunded demands for improvement. No threats of punishment if goals do not meet arbitrary expectations.

America has had eras in which the cheap quick fix was popular because it was faster and less expensive.

Many in our society continue to believe economizing is more important than spending resources to improve the common good.

School funding policies are affected by such frugality. Equitable funding is difficult because the source of money to support schools is inconsistent. Wealthy districts or states utilize good incomes from property taxes and other sources of revenue. Poor districts and states do not.

Available federal money constitutes less than 10% of school budgets. That percentage either goes up or down depending on national priorities.

The characters in this story are fortunate to work in a district that has a good tax base, and in a state with resources and polices that support communities and infrastructure. The district also has a board and superintendent that makes good use of discretionary funds. Not averse to seeking grants to upgrade the quality of teaching and learning.

The “Walls Analysis” is a necessary first step. It takes time, intense collaboration, and challenging forms of decision-making. A beginning, with subsequent actions substantively more important.

Barbara, while young, is accepted as a gifted leader. Organized, responsive, reflective, and full of initiative. Perfect as chair of the district’s first subject area committee.

Rebecca is more mature and experienced. Fully prepared as an administrative leader in the realm of curriculum, instruction, and assessment.

Together Rebecca and Barbara launched the SAC process.

Both have the intelligence and general knowledge of what the next steps should be. Steps now completed. The hard work of creating a new kind of curriculum begins.

As young and inexperienced as Mary is, she has been trained specifically for designing a curriculum meant to clearly enunciate the results inherent to the new learning infrastructure.

Awed by the responsibility, she is nevertheless ready to do the best she can.

Mary’s Story: The Next Chapter – Part 1

Little did I know a year ago I would be a key player in a school district’s conversion to methods inherent to the new learning infrastructure. Impossible if I had been the product of a traditional preservice teacher education.

My preservice education did not introduce me to the techniques used to launch a subject area committee. The district’s “Walls Analysis” was an excellent way to validate the professionalism of seasoned teachers. It allowed them to collectively probe curricular elements not individually considered before.

In my preservice classes we researched curricular content and make decisions based on logic. The experienced teachers do the same thing, with the added benefit of knowing their students’ needs.

Someday, I will do the same!

Rebecca and Barbara examined the work in my preservice training. Rebecca shared the mastery statement my fellow students and I developed with members of the council. I was asked to attend a council meeting to explain in greater detail what it meant.

Council members were just as assertive in their questioning as my fellow students were two years ago.

“What is meant by ‘deep understanding?’”

“Why should public schools be teaching ‘entrepreneurship?’”  

“What does ‘mindfulness’ mean in terms of a school curriculum?”

“Since when is it a school’s responsibility to teach ‘personal values?’”

“What exactly is ‘intellectual passion?’”

The mastery statement developed in my undergraduate days survived well. Changes were made, as expected, but the discussion itself was deemed by the council to be very instructive.

Students completing the full program of studies at XYZ School District will have skills that expand their understanding of reality. A deeper understanding of themselves and how they fit into the world.

They can solve complex problems, think and act creatively, and manage their own needs responsibly.

Graduates understand and can act on principles associated with entrepreneurship. The ability to become lifelong learners through knowing how to learn and being motivated to do so.

They are curious about ways they can stretch boundaries into new and different realms. An inherent drive to learn continuously, to ask good questions and become part of diverse communities in which feedback is vigorous and stimulating.

They will understand the importance of self-confidence, gained through experience with widening groups, taking meaningful initiatives (reaching out), receiving consistent encouragement from respected associates.

Graduates will practice mindfulness in terms of clarifying priorities and actions each day.

They are open to others from different backgrounds. They understand and work to achieve self-discipline and personal values. Create and maintain the convictions to pursue these values.

Students completing the full program of studies at XYZ School District will also speak and write effectively. Know how to make people feel at ease, those from every walk of life. Graduates will enter conversations with others and show genuine interest in their ideas and activities.

While each academic discipline is important, graduates will grasp the idea that problem solving is usually associated with a complex and interactive system. Solving problems requires collaborative skills that allows all disciplines to work in concert.

Graduates will understand the meaning of intellectual passion. Not simply a passion for attaining more knowledge, but in comprehending its significance and value.

The ability to communicate expressively both orally and in writing. Life is more than a single dimension. It is an assortment of experiences that make it worth living.

Barbara’s language arts subject area committee needed to have the approved district mastery statement before it could create the mastery statement for its subject.

My work in college had been focused on science. The only way I could draw from prior knowledge was wording. The district’s language arts teachers needed to use words and phrases implicit to language arts.

My leadership tasks were transforming me each day. More confident and self-assured.

Better able to engage with teachers much older and more experienced. Who, because of the process, were also being transformed.  

©2021 Stu Ervay – All Rights Reserved

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