Where lies the enemy?

There is considerable finger pointing in our world today. We’ve replaced responsibility with accountability. Too often, society is quick to blame somebody or something else for their own woes. This really struck a chord a couple of weeks ago when I was involved in a Twitter chat that blamed everything beyond themselves. Even trying to add a different perspective led to more insults and eventually I left the conversation because there wasn’t going to be anything positive forthcoming.  

Unfortunately, education has also become part of that same culture. The “blame game” is alive and well throughout education! The supposed cures for education seem to be entrenched with the language of, “If only” If only we had more money, more time, smaller classes, less testing, more educational assistants, more resources, etc. There seems to be this belief that with “X”, we would be so much better off. And while I would never say no to any of the above, more of the above will most likely only lead to better sameness and not significant change in our educational system.

Our education system really needs to be transformed. The initial purpose of education was never intended to have the student as the central focus. And although we often use the language that we are student centred there are only “some” times when that is actually the case. Even though we have solid research backing improved pedagogy, assessment and structure we still want to continue as we always have.

So where lies the enemy? Quite simply, it lies within each of us, not them but us. We are part of a society that prefers blame to responsibility. We prefer excuses to solutions and we too quickly see barriers instead of opportunities. It is far easier to look beyond rather than within and to call the system a failure before we call ourselves to task. Sad but this culture exists from leader to teacher and from parent to student.

Yet, I’ve been blessed to be around teachers who have made great changes and significant impacts in the lives of students throughout their careers. Why? What’s the difference? Simple, they say “I can and I will!!” They expect and more importantly they accept that conditions may not be optimal but they always move forward. When you walk in their rooms you wish you were a student again and if you are a parent you hope your child gets the opportunity to be in their class. They exude passion and compassion! They believe in their students and set high expectations for all without any excuses.

If we truly desire to make education relevant to the students of today we need to recognize the enemy within each of us and dispel it. No more excuses! No more “If only, What if, But, or I can’t! Then, and only then, will we begin to transform ourselves and then truly reform the system.   




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  1. I think it’s a blended path. I believe that we need to look for better structure, support and systems, yet I also believe that teachers can’t ask for, or expect those changes, without doing what you suggest: look within ourselves to find the ways we can develop and improve our craft for best effect.

    1. There is no doubt that it is not an either/or dilemma but rather a both. However, if we constantly blame outwards instead of look inwards we will not change our teaching practice. That is a personal decision. I’ve been in education in Alberta since 1985 and I’ve seen some great conditions and some challenges but comparitively speaking we are in a good space. Given that, we need to make the choice of improving ourselves as highlighed by Tom Whitby in his latest blog post “Hypocrisy in the Profession of Education” http://networkedblogs.com/yGstN Thanks for your comments!

  2. I’ve recently been working with Dr. Marilyn Price-Mitchell as we have been fervently discussing the topic of transforming school culture. Most specifically, we have been talking about what is RIGHT in schools instead of what is WRONG. I firmly believe that we are focused on the wrong thing when we refer to education reform or “fixing education.” We need to focus on the good. Yes, we need to figure out how to deal with the negative issues, but of course, that side exists in all professions.

  3. Great post Chris. Good education starts with a good teacher who has a passion for helping kids learn. We have poured money into technology and reform only to get a world class set of solitaire players and no improvement in student results. Until we believe all students can learn and we can facilitate their learning, we’ll continue to make excuses. I am trying to get school leaders to develop a set of beliefs around “why” do they do what they do in their schools/districts. A core set of beliefs focused on the why versus the what and how may help focus them inward.

  4. Great post! Really like your thought that pouring more money in to the same things may only serve to perpetuate more of the same “problems”. It seems that people like Simon Sinek have it figured out. It kind of comes down to taking a good hard look at the things we believe in because that is what drives our practice.

    “Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.” (Arthur Ashe)

    1. Thanks for the comments Monica. I love that Arthur Ashe quote. It really speaks to the idea that we all have a responsibility to move forward regardless of the barriers. If we dwell only on the barriers instead of looking at the many oportunities we will simply spin our wheels and become stagnant. Not a great prognosis for education.

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