Monday, July 12, 2010

2 different models of school culture

One of my friends shared this on my google reader and I couldn't help but be horrified by how close it comes to dysfunctional (and even some functional) schools. It's a blog post on how to keep your employees loyal to you with a sick system.

The rules:

1) Keep them too busy to think

2) Keep them tired
1 and 2 go hand in hand. I have good friends who work at schools where everyone is exhausted, overworked, and stressed beyond repair. No one has the energy or time to think about anything meaningful (including finding another job)
3) Keep them emotionally involved
This is the biggest trap we fall into as teachers. It's all emotional, and usually there is no way to not be emotionally involved. Leave right after the kids leave? But how can you- there are children involved. Children learning. Everything is "for the kids", right? You can sacrifice a night of sleep or family time "for the kids".
4) Reward intermediately
In some schools it's so rare to hear anyone say "good job". Mostly rewards are all internal and come from the kids (going back to the emotional piece again). Although I know of principals who reward just enough to keep everyone in some sick competition to please, but not enough rewards to let teachers feel they actually are doing well.
5) Keep the crisis rolling
In a classroom, or public school, isn't there always a crisis? Good administrators keep things from getting out of hand, and keep even the largest crisis downplayed. But, again, we all know of principals and schools were every windy day, every angry parent, every low test score is the cause for absolute alarm bells.
6) Keep rewards distant
Rewards? What rewards? Good test scores once a year? If they are good?
7) Chop up their times with meetings, visits from supervisors, bells and whistles, time clocks, etc.
Ah, yes, now, this describes many, many public schools. (not to brag but again this is one thing the Think-Tank does well- if it can be done in an email it is- we have few staff meetings.)
8) Enmesh your success with theirs
I've heard of principals who always take credit for their teachers' work. "Look what my teacher did with what I gave her!" "I created an amazing teacher!" "My school has turned around with my guidance"
9) Keep everything on edge: make sure there is never enough time, money, goods, status
As public school teachers do we ever have enough time or money? Supplies? Paper?
10)Establish one small semi-occasional success
Again, success is always intrinsic, unless it is correlated to test scores. You have to find your own path to reward yourself- otherwise it is a long, painful, frustrating journey.

I have many close friends who have worked at schools that fit into these 10 rules. In fact, I know more schools that adhere to these rules than don't. Is that the secret to keeping us in low paying jobs with long hours? Is this what public school is built around?

On the flip side, in his new book Linchpin, Seth Godin lists 10 factors that motivate professionals to do their best work:

1. Challenge and responsibility
2. Flexibility
3. A stable work environment
4. Money
5. Professional development
6. Peer recognition
7. Stimulating colleagues and bosses
8. Exciting job content
9. Organizational culture
10. Location and community

Good public schools, or any school, can create this culture (ok, minus the money). I hate to keep bragging about my school because we're not perfect, but there is something to be said about the leadership style and culture that exists. When we look at how to "fix" education we talk about how to "fix" and evaluate teachers, but we forget to look at them as professionals as part of a working community. When administrators put these 10 in place as much as they can, and limit the use of the ten from above, it frees teachers up to do amazing things inside their classrooms.

In a way I think it all comes down to respect. If you have little respect for someone and feel the need for constant control, you create a culture represented in the first ten rules. If you respect some one's ability to do their job, and value their contributions, you create a culture that represents the last ten.

So why do so few schools operate within the last ten, and most stay in the first ten?


Clix said...

It wasn't until I got halfway through #3 that I figured out you were talking about the TEACHERS!

organized chaos said...

Really glad you eventually figured it out... guess I should have been a bit clearer- it is rather disturbing to think of that list in terms of students.

Clix said...

Well, I think it starts out okay and it's just put in a bad light. You know - if they're not working, are they really learning? And you want them to CARE about what they're doing; that's a good thing! 5-9 are definitely negative, and I'm not sure what 4 and 10 mean. (Reward intermediately? And what do they mean by "one small occasional success"?)