Saturday, February 12, 2011

Collaboration Kills says Joe Klein.

I tried really hard to stay digitally away from the Teach for America summit this weekend. Both the TFA is the enemy and TFA is the answer tweets and blog posts make me weary. As a TFA alum, I too have mixed feelings about the organization. So I stayed away, except when working on making some revisions to Chapter 3 of my dissertation, I accidentally just clicked on the video of this morning's panel and hopped around for literally two minutes before I stumbled upon this quote from Joe Klein: "Don't buy into this notion that if all the adults just collaborate, it will be just fine for the kids, the adults have been collaborating for a long time, and the kids are getting screwed." It is about 1 hour and 18 minutes into the panel and after the quote many cheered.

I get it to some extent. I am now just a small city, elementary school principal and have no ideas about big city battles between administration and unions.  So, I am not one that will pretend I know the answers.

But, to go back to the quote, if you mess with collaboration, you really make me angry. The sound bite about collaboration got applause from the TFA audience because it conjured up images of union teachers collaborating only around how little they were going work the next day or something.

What worries me about all of this is the notion of leadership that TFA seems to engender. Just tell people what to do, blast them if they don't follow the mandate, and if they question things they don't have the best interests of the children in mind.

What if there is another way? What if there are school leaders out there, TFA alum like myself included, that fully believe in collaboration. That believe that involving all of the voices in a school in the slow and messy process of improving and building a dynamic learning environment. That believe that test scores measure some things but not every thing. That seek out feedback and input at every step of the process, no matter how difficult and time consuming.
I don't think our kids are getting screwed either.

I know, I know, I am just a principal of a little elementary school. What could I possibly know about leadership and change and human behavior? I think I had spent more time both teaching and leading a school than anyone else on the panel, except maybe one. I guess I know that much more than them.

1 comment:

  1. Matt,

    Thanks for putting this up- I always appreciate your reflective stance and your efforts to find common ground wherever and whenever you can. Joel Klein got it wrong - you know that from your work to lead with teachers in a unified struggle to figure out how to make sense of the challenges facing the teachers with whom your work and the children they serve. You don't drink the Kool-aid for any reform recipe and I appreciate that. Here's why the distributive leaders model- an ecosystem approach and collaborative effort- works.

    Collaboration leads to collective intelligence which leads to solutions that individual educators might never have considered in isolation which leads to value for working as a team which leads to supporting children to see themselves as members of an inclusive community which leads to graduates who can work in teams in their colleges, jobs, communities, and families which leads to citizens who see this nation's diversity as creating opportunities to problem-solve together which leads to adults who ensure that every child gets a teacher who values collaboration as a key skill set which leads to teachers willing to share their passion for their work with young people which leads to an ever-improving, committed profession which leads to an educated and socially responsible citizenry.