Main Offices are NOT Designed to Innovate

1.      MAIN OFFICES ARE NOT OPEN TO NEW IDEAS

The regularities of schooling formulated at the turn of the century remain firmly in control of the organizational and pedagogical structures of contemporary schooling. What do the regularities of schooling look like? Goodlad’s (1984) study of instructional programs of 13 high schools remains, after 30 years, the best account of these regularities in action. The regularities described in Goodlad’s study of high school classrooms is a highly scripted performance that includes:

   the teacher explaining or lecture to the total class or a single students, occasionally asking questions requiring factual answers: the teacher, when not lecturing, observing or monitoring students working individually at their desks; students listening or appearing to listen to the teacher and occasionally responding to the teacher’s questions; students working individual at their desks on reading or writing assignments; and all with little emotion, from interpersonal warmth to expressions of hostility. (Goodlad, 1984, p. 230)

 Any idea, program, technique that would fundamentally alter the regularities are met with the regular responses of bureaucracies: “no money,” “no room,” “no staff,” “no time.”

2.      MAIN OFFICES ARE RISK AVERSE

Embedded in the process of innovating is the willingness to experiment. Any form of experimentation involves risk—the understanding that your great idea may result in great failure. No parent wants to hear that their son or daughter’s educational progress was impeded by a failed teaching methodology or organizational arrangement. The problem with this fear of failure is most of what we do in schools—how we organize subjects; how we teach; how we assess—are methodologies and organizational structures that the research for decades has declared to be educationally ineffective. Most of what school communities would define as experimental are practices that the research has proven to be educationally effective. The willingness on the part of administrators to experiment with “what the research says” is still a bridge too far for main offices who value the certainties of institutional schooling over the uncertainties of progressive learning environments.

3.      MAIN OFFICES DO NOT HIRE DIVERSE TALENT

The source of all innovative environments is a talent pool populated with personnel with diverse cultural, educational, and work backgrounds. Main offices look for candidates that meet uniform credentialing requirements and are comfortable working within programs and organizational structures that prize compliance and standardization. Teachers with a proclivity for out of the box thinking do not remain long in organizational structures and routines that leave little time or venues to think about, discuss, or experiment with disparate models of schooling or teaching.

4.      MAIN OFFICES ARE NOT DESIGNED FOR INNOVATION

School buildings were designed for surveillance and categorization of children and adolescents. Hallways, classrooms, offices, departments are organizational configurations that simplify adult supervision and assign them to the right age group, or subject, or department. Spending your entire day in an office or a classroom, largely isolated from your colleagues, fails create the kinds of collaborative environments that generate innovate ideas and practices.

5.      MAIN OFFICES HOUSE DOERS NOT THINKERS

Main offices house men and women who have mastered the managerial tools—budgeting, scheduling, distributing, monitoring— for completing administrative and supervisory tasks. None of these tools question or elaborate on the beliefs, ideas, theories, values, or outcomes governing an assigned managerial task. Without a thorough understanding of the theories, concepts, or practices constituting the managerial task, administrators are unable to adjust, to improve upon, or create new understandings of the programs, the mandates, the teaching models they have been assigned to implement.

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