Opposing Viewpoints

If you missed the discussion that took place in the comments section of my blog post Resistance to Change, then you missed a good discussion.

A couple of people have stopped me  since that “blog” discussion happened to say things like, “SEE! That’s why I’d never write a blog, you’re too exposed.” or “Are you okay?” and there was a general reaction of some that it was almost scandalous that anyone posted opposing thoughts here.

That’s exactly what’s supposed to happen on the blog. If I only wanted the conversation to go one way, I wouldn’t allow any comments. I’d just keep putting my word out without listening. But here’s the problem with that idea, I’m not always right. None of us is.

I realize I’m very comfortable with debate, argument, discussion, and conflict from studying the learning styles as advanced through Thoughtful Classroom, the work by Richard Strong and Harvey Silver. I’m an “understanding” learner and so one of the ways that I learn and improve my thinking is through analysis and discussion. Just because you disagree with me doesn’t make one of us right and one of us wrong.

It’s through discussion that we can come to better conclusions together. Knowing that I had a teacher who got a very different message than what I intended worried me. I called several people who I know read the blog regularly and were also in attendance at Thursday’s roll out of the Professional Learning Networks. I needed to know if others got the same message he did, “had I totally screwed up? Is that what my message was?” See, I learned that at least one person walked away with something other than my purpose–that’s important to me. And worse, if others read the blog and that comment and thought, “well, that wasn’t what I thought she was saying, but geez, is that what happened?” then I’ve got a bigger problem.

Here’s the thing, those conversations have always taken place in hallways, parking lots and faculty rooms—-but SELDOM with the administration. With the blog, I get to add my voice to the conversation and I also get to hear what some others are thinking. Best case scenario in the conversation on that post? I get to clarify some thinking and I get to learn from the readers who comment. Thank you to Teacher, Matthew K. Tabor, Cody Heaps and Dan Scapelitte for commenting.

I keep saying that we’re better collectively than we are apart–this is another example of that same thing–it applies to me too. I’m better if I know what everyone is thinking. I might not always agree and sometimes I have to take a stand that some won’t like, but we’re all better if it’s done openly and honestly, F2F or on the blog or in an email or whatever—collaborating and communicating strengthens all of us. Everyone doesn’t always get her way but together we make better decisions, especially if we can acknowledge that there’s more than just our individual point of view to consider.

Through our diversity we can come to better learning with passion, innovation and leadership—open minded and kicking the heck out of that status quo. Looking forward to hearing more from you!

  1. Brava Mrs. Senn! I wholeheartedly agree with your assessment! This is not “just another idea coming down the pike”. It is something we have all been asking for since I became a teacher: time to spend with my fellow teachers to find out what works for them! However, it would appear that “teacher” insists that it is another idea forced upon us so I will take a detour and go down that road for a moment. I didn’t begin teaching until I was in my late 30’s. In my 20’s, I had plenty of jobs in factories in the Jamestown area. I worked at Blackstone, a company that made radiators. My job was to supply the soldering line parts to solder together. Each radiator had very specific parts. On one occasion, I put the wrong tops in the line. They made something like 50 radiators with the wrong tops. My boss took me over to the radiators and asked me what they were going to do with 50 radiators with the wrong tops. He then fired me. In the real world, bosses tell employees what their product should look like. If the employee doesn’t make the product like the boss wants, they get fired! Now a teacher may argue that we are professionals and we know our jobs. The guy on the factory line is not a professional! Do you suppose if an engineer, working for some company, decided that he knew more about the product than the boss would long keep his job? Would you want to fly with a pilot who says, “That’s the way we flew planes back in 1920! If it was good enough for then, it’s good enough for now! Once again, I agree with Mrs. Senn, we are here to be the best teachers we can be. I appreciate anyone, be they another teacher or administrator, that helps me to do that.

  2. You are exposed to be sure and it takes courage to write as you do, but keep it up because you’re a pioneer in every sense of the word. I look forward to what you write and you’ve given me good direction with some of your links. I appreciate the link to Fred Deutsch and because of your post I’m subscribed to Fred’s RSS feed. Your blog is the epitome of good taste and you’re really a model to other administrators. Good teachers provoke their students to think in new and different ways and you do that here. 🙂 Don

  3. This all seems a little silly to me. Mission/vision statements are simply designed to state the core purpose of an organization and to enhance our focus towards a common goal.

    “Learning with passion, innovation, and leadership” is not a restriction or administrative statute; it is an objective meant to encourage and inspire all of us to do what we do best and to serve as a reminder of why we are all here. This would encompass Thoughtful Classroom, CKH, and learning clubs, as well as what you personally believe to be innovative and constructive within your classroom ( i.e.- if those programs aren’t working for you, then you are encouraged and supported in your efforts to find something that does). They are asking us to continually strive for improvement, just as we ask of our students every day. Is that really so contentious? The reason why Kim states that she chooses not to focus on the select few who refuse to adapt is because it is counterproductive for everyone. Unfortunately, it is statements like that which make all of us look bad.
    Aren’t there more important things in this world to worry about beyond taking offense to your employer’s realistic expectations?

  4. Sorry–thought of one other important thing about all of this. By talking to each other, we’re hopefully helping clarify our positions and better understand one another. Each person who works in our organization, or attends our schools, or lives in our community is a vital part of our school family. We’ve got to listen to one another, respect opposing viewpoints, and encourage each other to reach our fullest potential. We can only do that through good communication and mutual respect.

    Thank you for participating in the conversation–maybe we can eventually overcome any destructive and juvenile atmosphere that allows colleagues to ridicule each other for their ideas. If we want to be considered professionals, then we really have to look like, act like, and think like professionals. I see the best in each of you, guess it’s my role to help you see it in each other too.

  5. Dear Teacher:

    On your first point, that quote actually relays that the vision statement was created with the BOE, along with BOE goals, and communicated to the faculty—I’ve never denied that, I’ve reiterated it many times. What I disagree with is in your former comment –that the BOE formed goals for YOU. They formed BOE goals for themselves as a BOE and then the Admin team formed their own goals as presented last night and I understand principals are working with teachers to form teacher goals. That’s how the process should work. No one has said “we’ve sat back and set these goals for you–now make it happen.”

    Second point, you’re right. There always seems to be the “latest, greatest” coming at us. I don’t know how to sit back and ignore all of it. I can’t imagine a school system thriving over the next couple of decades if we don’t pay attention and choose what works for us in a discriminating way. Of the “programs” you mention, we’ve been committed to Thoughtful Classroom and Capturing Kids Hearts for 3+ years, Learning Clubs for 1, curriculum mapper ‘left the building’ because we asked teachers and they said, this isn’t working for us. None of the others is going away—some teachers may choose to further study those pedagogies. The Professional Learning Networks are an evolution of the Learning Clubs. I understand change can be difficult—that’s why I’m so excited about the Professional Learning Networks–it gives YOU the power to choose. You get to do the research and decide, not me or the Admin team, what you want to learn about learning.

    On your third point, you’re absolutely right. What threw me is that I didn’t expect anyone to hide their identity from me. That’s why I said “as long as you list your actual email, it’ll go through.” I have this crazy notion that people can actually disagree and talk about things, without it being personal. After reading your comment, I guess it doesn’t really matter which of our teachers you are–I’m glad I heard from you no matter who you are. Wish you could just come and talk to me, but I’ll take it however it comes.

  6. For what it’s worth:

    “I think that’s how most BOE members feel when they serve on a board of education. So it’s with much excitement that I met with our administrators and teachers to talk about the vision/mission set by our BOE at it’s Fall Retreat–Learning with Passion, Innovation and Leadership.”

    (excerpt from blog post “Learning with Passion, Innovation, and Leadership” dated on January 26th)

    That quote states that these goals and visions were set by the BOE, and then relayed to the teachers.

    A vision for the district is wonderful. What’s difficult is, the countless “programs” we have had over the years. So many, that they seem to be a fad (Capturing Kids Hearts, Thoughtful Classroom, Learning Clubs, Professional Learning Networks, Curriculum Mapper, etc. etc.). Once we’re finally getting use to one of those programs, another is introduced. We never get a chance to absorb and embrace what we are currently doing.

    In regards to the anonymous posting, this was encouraged in another blog.

    “Why does that matter? Well, I understand that there are teachers or parents who don’t want to post a comment because they don’t feel like dealing with the sometimes snide remarks of their colleagues or they don’t want to get into an argument with the neighbor across the street or hallway who they know disagrees.

    That’s why you can feel free to post a comment as Lulu or Trixie or George or Hank if you want. As long as you list your actual email, it’ll go through. And if I see that you’re posting under a different name, I’ll get it–no questions asked.”

    (excerpt from “Commenting on the Blog” dated September 30th).

    When teachers, staff, and faculty are continuously ridiculed for speaking up by their peers, why would anyone speak up with their name attached to it?

    Thank you.

  7. Just know that many of us out here look forward to you thought provoking, timely, and interestingly ‘on the edge’ posts. Keep ’em coming!

  8. Kimberly,
    I was totally shocked to read the response from the annonymous teacher on your last blog, and even more elated to read your response to that post.
    It is good to be able to communicate – that is two or more INVOLVED in a conversation. I, on the same page as Mr. Scapellitte, don’t respond too often because of the fear that no matter what I say it will be misconstrued. That it may be perceived as coming from “THE BOARD”, when anything I say or do is me, myself, a concerned mom, district resident and tax payer. I am only part of the board, and we are only a board when we are all together COMMUNICATING and discussing the issues that are brought before us.
    When we met for our retreat it was such a positive thing, we really dug in and thought about where we wanted our school to go as a district. To push forward with the most important aspect of our job, giving each child in our a district a quality education. When we put our mission statement together, that took a long time to get right believe it or not for those six words, what came to mind for me was how great that we can use this statement not only for our students but for the administrators, teachers, support staff, bus drivers, BOE members, parents, you name it, it works no matter who you are or what you do for a living. Or at least it should!
    (I would urge anyone reading this blog that may have had the same, incorrect, perception of what we do at the board level to attend a meeting.)
    I know for a fact that many are reading and not commenting(myself included), but just like you said, that really is not the point. Conversations and dialoge only happen when everyone gets involved. Shame on those of us that shy away from getting at the truth and pursuing what is best for our kids. And even more so on anyone that would give someone a hard time for expressing their feelings. As Leann stated, that is the democracy that we live in.
    And as a side note, just from me, although I am sure that my fellow BOE members would agree, never once at a meeting or anywhere else have we sat there and thought, or put in to action, “lets see how we can make life more difficult, lets see if we can overwhelm someone today, lets make decisions based on no facts, no research, no thought process whatsoever”.
    So on that note, Thank you Kimberly for doing what you do. Thank you for the transparancy, the truthfulness and the dedication. Keep on putting it out there like this, those of us that get it, appreciate it, and those that don’t get it yet, only will with the correct information.

  9. You’re doing good things there. Open discussion should be embraced, not feared. We should feel free to express our opinions, even if they are different from others. It’s okay. We can still get along. It’s called democracy.

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