After several days of brain-wringing over the implications of the death of bell curve evaluations, I have caught a dose of Bo Adams’ “What If” series, flavored by constant reminders of how effective our species is at “getting ‘er done” when we interact with purpose. And add a big dollop of “I never have enough time”, the single most common and valid complaint of all educators. So here is my “what if” for the day:
What if all of our employees used 10-minute lunchtime chats or 30-second passes on the walkway as a radically interactive and on-going conversation about something important to the school?
Last week I counted the number of times and minutes that I had really brief, informal chats with different members of the faculty about tangents to the concept of innovation at our school. The total came to about 12 separate conversations and about 50 minutes. None of these were forced; they were equal exchanges and both parties were interested in hearing what the other had to say. At our school we have about 110 teaching faculty and another 30 administrators who touch the academic world pretty closely. You do the math (please; I can’t, but I will ask my smart son to do it for me!) That is a lot of conversations and a lot of time that no one is counting in their day right now.
In thinking about this I am taking a page from Collegiate School in Richmond, where Keith Evans reported to me last year that their capstone senior civics experience changed the way students talk at lunch. Students are so fired up about their experiences in the course that conversations at lunch are continuations of what took place in class that morning. What if our teachers were so fired up and on the same page about what took place that morning or last week that they continued the conversation into these mini-chats and touch-points throughout a week or a month or a school year? What if there were a way to capture and share all of those thousands of conversations and minutes of intellectual capital? Why do we only leverage our times together in faculty and department and PLC meetings?
Teachers represent a neural network, a resource that is only tapped at the margin. No, I am not saying that we need to fixate on school stuff every minute of breaks and lunch and walking from class to class. I like lying about golf scores and trading jibes with the coaches about their last loss as much as anyone. And I did all that last week as well, another dozen conversations over soup or in passing. But once again we should think about modeling what we want from our students. Nothing makes us happier when they carry their passion for learning outside of the classroom. What if we felt the passion to do the same, intentionally, sustainably, a rambling, rolling, on-going, re-shaping, re-forming giant PLC.
I know; sounds a little bit like The Borg for all us old Star Trek fans, but hey, The Borg “got ‘er done” big time, and I am writing this on my window seat on a sunny Saturday morning!