Flickr: Over the Corn Field by Walt Stoneburner
I’ve been reading a book called Conferring: The Keystone of Reader’s Workshop by Patrick A. Allen. In this book, it quoted a metaphor by Mark Wagler (Mooney, Mooney, and Holt, 1996) for a traditional classroom:
“Traditional classrooms are like corn fields. The farmer plows the
whole field at one time. One type of corn is planted with a standard
distance between the rows and between the seeds within the rows.
Every row receives the same amount of fertilizer. Each plant should
look about the same and will be harvested at the same time. A very
What metaphor would you use for your classroom or the classrooms in your building? Would each classroom be a different metaphor? Would they all align with this metaphor? What would be a metaphor for a great learning environment? Would the metaphor align with the school’s mission/vision?
cc licensed photo shared by Life Inspired Photography
There is a lot of literature out there about being a leader and the importance of leading not managing. This solid advice includes building trust and relationships but let’s not forget about the management of 21st century learning environments. I am not talking about making sure there is heat in the building…although heat is good. I am talking about the structures that need to be in place for effective 21st century learning environments and the skills that go with developing and nurturing these environments. Sometimes we don’t have the right balance of both and this can cause barriers in organizational/school/classroom change. This balance does not necessarily mean 50/50. At times, you may need 90% leadership and 10% management which could mean that you have not yet established solid trust and relationships and, therefore no learning will move forward for anyone in the organization/school/classroom. It could be 20% leadership and 80% management which may mean you have established trust and relationships and now it’s more about facilitating the teaching of skills and/or structure for effective learning. For example, when we think about 21st Century pedagogy which includes providing individual learning in a variety of formats for all children in a classroom, we think about how great that would be. I have not met an educator that did not agree with the fact that facilitating personal goals for all students and allowing for many choices in the learning process would be best for students. BUT…. where the resistance comes in is the “how”…how can that possibly be done? It’s the “how” of letting go of that control in an effective way. Just the thought of following through with this kind of environment can be overwhelming and paralyzing for educators. However, if the management structures of the change are examined and broken down into manageable chunks then organizational/school/classroom change could be more successful.
Recently, @jimknight99 tweeted out about a book by Monty Roberts that is a recommended read for instructional coaches. In this book Roberts (2001) writes about 0-10 learning. If all learning is from 0-10 then the 0-1 learning is building trust and relationships. If this 0-1 piece of the learning is not solid then no learning will happen. When I think about organizations/schools/classrooms, this is also true. I would then add to this idea and say the 1-2 learning is managing this type of environment. This 1-2 piece includes explicitly modeling and teaching the routines and structures of the learning environment before the content. The 21st Century learning structure is new to many educators and students (unfortunately we have trained them in a traditional structure for years and the majority of them comply!). Often this piece of professional development for educators is left out because we assume that educators can figure out how to manage this structure of learning for themselves once they change their pedagogy but, in fact, that is usually where they become paralyzed resulting in one of two things: end up going back to old ways or not feeling like they can be successful and do not even begin.
Think about your situation… What leadership/management balance do you
need to do for organization/school/classroom in order for effective change to