Reforms Should Honor Our Principles

Here’s a little story about how reforms should honor our principles.

In a conversation with a young nurse the other day, she proceeded to tell me what she thought about public schools. She had been a school nurse while her children were in a regular public school and felt it gave her a different perspective. She then went on to volunteer the information that her children were now in the “charter system.” O.K., there’s a hook I couldn’t resist.

The conversation ran along these lines;

Me: “What did you see as the problem?”

Her: “There is so much waste.” (She didn’t elaborate and I didn’t press it.)

Me: “You see a big difference between the charter school and the regular public?”

Her: “Oh, yes. The kids are so much more respectful at the charter school. The behavior was terrible in the public school and the teachers had this idea that there was nothing they could do about it. And the parents were just as bad as their kids!”

…and the conversation drifted to sports and more bad behaviors. But her points were made; they have been made before.

People want public schools to be places of civility. Respect is a basic principle of real education reform. emmylou-harris-musician-quote-as-citizens-we-have-to-be-more

People want OUR government institutions to be as thrifty with our tax dollars as we working-class people must be with our own.

Reforms should honor our principles.

The policies and practices of education reform must be based on the fundamental truths and doctrines we believe in. So my advise is for us to consider that civility and thriftiness are good starting points for lawmakers as well as schools.

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.