Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Culture of Compliance

I remember a friend of mine telling me about how they started to blog about education and shared links to their blog with colleagues via e-mail. Their district even had a Professional Development folder on e-mail that allowed for teachers to send information and links pertaining to Professional Development.

However, when my friend wrote a blog post that was critical of Robert Marzano, they were asked to stop posting links for their blog to the district Professional Development folder. They were told that the criticisms of Marzano were not supportive of the district's professional development.

Such a story leaves me disheartened.

It also leaves me with a question: who owns a teacher's professional development?

And under what circumstances would the answer to the above question ever be someone other than the teacher?

I don't care if your favorite author is Alfie Kohn or B.F Skinner. Either way, for professional development and life long learning to thrive, we must provide a forum for open dialogue.

Authority figures need to be very careful how they react to teachers who choose to openly and actively reflect upon the teaching profession.

They need to be careful, because teachers are watching.

Stanley Milgrim's shock experiments tell us that most people's default is to defer to authority; in other words, administrators need to go out of their way to nourish sharing and collaboration. If teachers are not given the ability to influence administration without appearing to be troublemakers, other teachers who are less apt to speak out will get the message.

School districts that try and frame (or even discourage) teachers from talking, reading, writing and sharing about their own profession are responsible for creating cultures of compliance where optimism is mandated and creativity and ingenuity are stifled.

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