Respect the Process!
There are hundreds of great ideas that could improve a school organization, thought of by dedicated professionals every day. Then, there is the actual implementation of those great ideas. Between the thinking and implementation is what I like to call “the process.” So often, educators say “why can’t we get anything done” or “why didn’t that work.” In almost every case, the answer is that while the ideas were great, the process was ignored. We must respect the process!
The truth is that the collaborative nature of our profession does not lend itself to top down mandates. In addition, while educators have opened doors and shared more with the arrival of PLCs, teaching remains a private practice. Commitment to implementing a strategy or idea is still ultimately the decision of each teacher, making engaging them in a process and building consensus even more important.
Some readers may be thinking “but building consensus and engaging everyone will just exacerbate how long things take” or “too many ideas keep us away from getting things done.” I’d respond that we need better balance between what will be agreed to be uniform at a building or district level and what can be left to the professional judgment of teachers.
As an administrator, I see my role in helping to develop processes as vital to what I can do to help our school. Currently, I am working with some teachers on how to build assessments as the Common Core standards roll out. All teachers agree that we need some basic, uniform measurement that we can look at to find common data points to evaluate classroom instruction. By no means should this replace teacher’s freedom to assign tasks or make observations that are unique to their students. We need a process that will get us to some commonality; however, that does not mean uniformity. Our process must engage classroom teachers to first identify the outcomes we want, then building questions to get data. We then develop a scale, ask the questions we developed, and analyze the data to help it re-think our classroom practice and our questions. This cycle continues as new units and new standards are rolled out. By respecting the process, everyone is heard and we create something that will “last” as our landscape changes.
Whether it is planning for professional development, instruction, assessment, setting up a school committee or making an important organizational decision, respecting the process will always get us closer to solutions rather than mandating change. There are 60 miles of road between the great idea someone comes up with and its implementation. Respecting the process allows everyone to travel that road and sets us up for success.