The job that I am leaving in favor of my new life as a part time teacher was characterized by one thing – we never confronted each other. It was taboo. Who can survive in an environment like that? Michael Fullan believes that we have the moral imperative to confront each other. I like that. It is part of a larger vision that shared leadershiip is essential. Fullan also suggests that “brutal facts” are ok if they lead to change, and that we need the ability to thrive on chaos rather than merely cope with the status quo. School cultures can change, but it’s not going to happen anytime soon in some places.
The Problem with CI
Jeffrey Sachs was asked what the difference between people in Norway and in the U.S. was. He responded that people in Norway are happy and
6 thoughts on “Michael Fullan”
I’m currently reading The Five Dysfunctions of a Team. It deals with Ben’s comment and Michael’s belief about confrontation and a number of other things. Unfortunately, it applies to much of the teaching profession. Before I reveal what Patrick Lencion considers the five dysfunctions of a team, just a couple of comments.
1. The contributors to this blog are not fully a team, but we are a lot closer to that than most departments at most schools, despite all of the rhetoric and “training” in Professional Learning Communities, etc.
2. Ben has taken a big step in addressing the foundational issue in team building, and I believe some of our discussions have moved us in the direction of team creation.
So, . . .
1. The most fundamental and foundational dysfunction of a team is Absence of Trust. Ben learned about that the hard way before taking the blog private. I dare say that none of us currently on the blog will take the things that are posted and use them against anyone else on the blog. This is a huge first step. We can be vulnerable here – but most school settings are dangerous, so we must protect our invulnerability. This has tremendous implications for our classrooms as well.
2. Fear of Conflict arises from Absence of Trust. Because in our school settings we don’t trust people to “fight fair” and attack ideas rather than people, we maintain an Artificial “Harmony” that creates tension and resolves nothing. Here on the blog I have seen critique, but we haven’t hit any major disagreements; that’s part of the reason why I don’t know that we are yet a team. How we handle disagreement when it comes will help determine that.
3. Lack of Commitment is, I think, a major issue in most schools. Many managers/administrators/department chairs don’t hear people out, so there is no buy-in. I see this in my own district, though thankfully not all the time: decisions are handed down from the top, faculty members have little opportunity to express concerns, and in a couple of years the district has moved on to the next fad. There is no real commitment at any level. Most critically, though, with no chance to be heard the site staff doesn’t fully support the decisions. The result is Ambiguity, and students often use this ambiguity to circumvent rules and policies. As an aside, a couple of years ago we had a situation at the end of the year in which the valedictorian was discovered to have cheated, and indications were that this had happened more than once. Our principal brought the matter to the faculty and asked out opinion. The meeting was loud and full of disagreement, but by the end the entire faculty agreed that being valedictorian meant not just the highest GPA but also evidencing integrity in achieving it. We voted unanimously to replace the valedictorian. At that moment, we were a team. Then we received a message from the district office that we couldn’t do that because we had not spelled that out beforehand, that being valedictorian was traditionally all about GPA. We sent a message back to the district saying that we expected a district representative to come to the school, face the faculty and convince us. The district backed down, and the valedictorian was replaced. I’m proud of my school in this, but very disappointed in my district. They did the right thing for the wrong reason and illustrated dysfunction #3: Fear of Conflict. A lot of matters are decided based on that.
4. Avoidance of Accountability is coupled with Fear of Conflict. We don’t confront our colleagues because we dislike or fear the interpersonal conflict that might result. Ben has again taken a huge step in setting up the blog to be able to view videos and be held accountable for our teaching. In the profession at large, I see a lot of Avoidance of Accountability. Then people from the outside step in to impose it without knowing how to do it. If we as the professionals had been holding each other accountable, I doubt that we would be seeing the anti-education (and anti-teacher) movements that now exist across the country. The Finland model is interesting because it not only raises the status of teachers but also their accountability. Michael’s belief that we have a moral imperative to confront each other is the antidote to Avoidance of Accountability which leads to Low Standards. BTW, our whole discussion on Assessment has centered on accountability, and while we need a mechanism for holding students accountable, we as teachers also need to be held accountable.
#5. The end result is Inattention to Results because everyone is more interested in Status and Ego than in the success of the team. Rather than heeding Mr. Spock’s (Start Trek) maxim that “the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few or the one”, people think they must do whatever is necessary to maintain their Status and feed their Ego. I think we see this extremely clearly in the resistance to Comprehension-Based Instruction. It doesn’t matter that the ineffective and impoverished methods of instruction have failed generations of students, teachers and administrators protect their status and ego by attacking whatever threatens their position and by ignoring true results in favor of manufactured data based on testing that panders to the need to look good. My district won’t jettison benchmarks based on a particular textbook that they admit are the antithesis of the California State Standards because they believe anything is better than nothing. I believe they are wrong.
Thanks for the opportunity to rant.
Oh, and BTW, welcome Michael!
You keep on ranting, Robert. This is great stuff and very articulate. We have to define the problem in order to effectively deal with it, and your rant is heading us in the right direction. I need to digest all of your comments and insights and get back on this in a couple of days.
I have been saying to a colleague for a few years that our school environment is ill, not a healthy place to be either a teacher or a student. The word is really dysfunctional. Fullan and Lencion just went to the top of my reading list. Thanks, Robert.
Robert, I’m with Bryce. I’m gonna need a few days to process this. Right now I’m trying to recover from my recent interview at George Washington High School, which has great CI teachers, the best in our district, but which is a school I will never work in personally. It isn’t because of the CI team there, but because of exactly what you point to above Carol –
…our school environment is ill, not a healthy place to be either a teacher or a student….
How pathetic to go into a sick building and say, “Can I have a job, please? I need a job.” If we don’t take into account the mental health of the building, then why would we want to work in a place like that? I honestly feel that I am experiencing a rather strong case of PTSD, nothing of course compared to what our soldiers go through and I hesitate to make the comparison, but I feel that in my old job I was wounded and it wasn’t a glancing blow. It knocked the hell out of me and I need a lot of time just to catch my breath from those two years. Then, at GWHS, I experienced an interview that was more like a game of “Gotcha!” Both bad dreams came from administrators who in the invisible world were fairly full of themselves and convinced that they were the ones with all the experience in teaching languages. If I didn’t have Diana Noonan and Paul Kirschling and Annick Chen and Mark Mallaney and others in our TCI group in Denver as stalwart and practical leaders of this district, leaders who refuse to brook a single shred of compromise with the kinds of people you sound like you have in your own building, Carol, I would definitely hang up my spikes for good.
Small correction: the author is Patrick Lencioni (with an i at the end – I made a typo). He is also with The Table Group at http://www.thetablegroup.com – here’s a link to an editorial he wrote on successful people and how annoying they can be. (It should give us insight into the reaction of at least some of our colleagues.)