The Human Capacity to Change

We often hear talk about “scaling up” good practices but we rarely hear any talk about our capacity to do so. Capacity is a word that needs to enter the reform conversation more frequently.

Capacity literally means the ability, qualifications, or aptitude to do a task. But when it comes to improvements in education, I think it means much more. Take for example what I pointed out as good practices for parent-teacher conferences in Actions Set the Standard.

If a school leader wanted all teachers in the school to make the most of their encounters with parents, the leader’s ability to identify an improved practice and organize education on the subject would be only one step in the improvement process. A school leader must also have the desire, continued motivation, and patience to work with teachers while new practices are adopted and developed.

We are talking about changing the way people do things — that takes time and patience! It requires leaders with the capacity to understand and foster change in people. We’re talking about the human capacity to change.

Human capacity is based on trust, respect, and a willingness to accept feedback and work towards improvement. School children require we all make the effort to change in order to improve.


Actions Set the Standard

What does real education reform looks like? We need to go beyond the words we hear and come to understand that true reform will support, guide, produce, and ensure practices that improve every child’s education. Words, written or spoken, are not what matters most.

We keep trying to set the standards from the top down instead of guiding them from the bottom up.

We keep trying to set the standards from the top down instead of guiding them from the bottom up.

For example when I hear the words “encourage parental involvement,” they no longer have meaning for me. But when I listened to a young mother describe her recent first grade parent-teacher conference, I felt reason for hope.

She described a relaxed atmosphere in which the conversation focused on where the child is academically and the future goals. The students individual “quirks” were acknowledged and the parent’s role in the learning process was made clear.

Keep in mind; this is very early in the school year so this teacher must have done some authentic classroom testing (did not discuss a standardized test score). She had obviously observed the child and had gotten to know her personally. And she had a homework plan where assignments come home on Mondays and are not due immediately thus allowing for family schedules — setting an expectation without creating stress over homework for these young children.

We need the teaching profession to set and clarify their standard of practices like other professions do.

We need the teaching profession to set and clarify their standard of practice upon which the public can gauge whether or not they have the resources to do their jobs.

This is the development of a partnership to support the student’s learning.

Can you imagine what it would be like if this type of parent-teacher interaction was the standard of practice? In real education reform, we could put these practices into every teacher, leader, and counselor preparation and continuing education program, and, into action in every classroom, now.