A Call to Action!

“If we could present an absolutely irrefutable case that the successful implementation of professional learning community concepts in your school will result in higher levels of student achievement and greater professional satisfaction for your educators, would you be willing to make substantive changes in your traditional practices to effect that successful implementation?”

-Richard DuFour, Robert Eaker, Rebecca DuFour

On Common Ground

In DuFour et al.’s book On Common Ground, in the chapter titled, Closing the Knowing-Doing Gap, the authors focus on what barriers schools come across and give suggestions on how to overcome those barriers. Reading this chapter through an educator’s lens, examining my practice, my school’s practices and the district that I teach in was at first scary, then enlightening, and finally, after days of thought, I was left with a feeling of hope–the thought that I have the power to help turn the tides. This, according to DuFour et.al., is the first step to creating a more effective school; if schools are to change, people need to be willing to change their practice. Not only do the people need to change but each cell of the organization needs to shift with an organized and intentional plan to create the system change, (DuFour, 180-181).

I found that each barrier addressed in On Common Ground, is not necessarily a barrier that can be overcome completely as there is always room for the improvement of all practice. One barrier that I find most common and most human is the barrier #5: Mindless precedent. People are quite reluctant to change and that could possibly be more so in education as we educators feel personally attached to our practice in an intense way. We have to learn that teaching to the status quo or believing that the way we do things in our classroom is the best way–the only way is not progressive thinking. We need to analyze our practice and the practice of others with the students’ best interests in mind. After all, isn’t that why we do this? As written on page 235, in On Common Ground, “The single best strategy for addressing this barrier to action is to bring the unstated assumptions that created the precedent to the surface–to challenge people to think carefully about the assumptions underlying their practice” (DuFour). Furthermore, the only way these assumptions can be presented nakedly to the staff is if shared leadership is practiced and trust is present amongst all staff. Leaders should hash out new practices with the staff in so doing creating a shared knowledge base and discuss the assumptions that brought the idea of change to the table. Allow everyone opportunities to say their peace–conducting “honest dialogue about the similarities and differences” (DuFour) between the ‘old way’ and the ‘new way’. These barriers addressed by DuFour, et. al., are not a means to an end but rather a means to continuous evaluation and evolution; with this in mind I feel that we are more willing and able to take action.

(title: A Call to Action is the title for section 5 of DuFour et. al.’s book On Common Ground)