Red Team

Here are two quotes I’ve been thinking about all day:

in the red #25 by clickykbd

in the red #25 by clickykbd

“All I ask of you is one thing: please don’t be cynical. I hate cynicism – it’s my least favorite quality and it doesn’t lead anywhere.”
-Conan O’Brien

“The tension between what I’m actually doing in my classroom and what I think I should be doing in my classroom has gotten to be almost unbearable. I don’t believe that I’m preparing my students to be successful in a world driven by innovation and creativity, but the ONLY tangible indicator of my performance—standardized test scores—says that my students are not as “accomplished” as students in other classrooms in our school and district.”
-Bill Ferriter

What I read most in Ferriter’s (@plugusin) quote is his determination not to be cynical, but rather to hold on to his beliefs about teaching and learning despite the compromises we are asked to make daily in the name of student “achievement.”  I don’t know an American public school colleague who doesn’t feel this tension.

What can we do? How can we resist cynicism? How can we go somewhere else?

In response to these quotes, I suggest we lobby for the creation of a red team per school or division made up of

  • Teachers of all sorts.
  • Students – especially those who struggle and/or feel disengaged.
  • Parents – including home-schoolers, private-schoolers, and virtual-schoolers who will rejoin the division provisionally to champion and monitor change.
  • Community partners who will invest human and/or financial resources in the team’s initiatives.
  • Building-level and central office administrators who get carte blanche from the school board to speak according to the dictates of their consciences.

Each team would ask two questions:

  • What’s our objective?
  • What’s in the way?

The red team would report to the principal or to the superintendent and the board.  The school or school system would own the objective and dedicate itself to achieving it and eliminating the obstacles to it through a project-based, balanced scorecard approach.

Or we could hang out here for a while longer and risk Coco’s ire.

Teachers: could you do this with students and/or parents in your classroom?  Frankly, the idea scares me, which is probably a clear indication that I should do it.  I’ve asked for feedback before, but not in a way that invites such honesty about my role in presenting obstacles to individual students’ learning.  Stay tuned.

  1. This is an interesting post, Chad….

    It really reminds me of something that Christensen wrote about in Disrupting Class. He talked about how public schools should embrace charter schools as hotbeds for innovation and argued that if public schools created pockets of innovation—which would likely only attract a small handful of teachers and students at first—-they could test new practices and strategies which could eventually translate across entire districts.

    Sadly, public schools often see charter schools as the enemy, though!

    I’d love to be a part of small innovative projects, though. They might not resonate with all teachers or parents, but they are certainly right for people like me—and they could result in a real spirit of experimentation that schools are definitely lacking in today’s day and age.

    Had fun thinking about this….Thanks!

    • Thank you, Bill – The Tempered Radical is always a thought-provoking read; it was among the first blogs I discovered and read regularly this past summer after the Edustat Conference as I worked to figure out the PLN. You inspired me to blog on education.

      In your comment you really hit on the essential, organic nature of teaching in response to students’ changing needs in ever-changing times. Innovation should be our practice. We should innovate to reach each kid. Radical differentiation is 1:1 innovation. I work at a public charter school where it’s our mission to innovate teaching and learning to reach non-traditional learners (while passing state tests). Every day unfolds as a series of hypotheses that undergo ceaseless revision as kids react to us educators and our plans, and as we react to students, their lives, and their work – including their successes with it and resistance to it.

      It strikes me that there’s a widening gap between charters that have “the answers” and charters that continue to ask questions about teaching and learning. I think any teacher should be wary of the former and unafraid to adopt the culture of the latter. It worries me that the data-driven culture of reigning ed policy promotes one flavor of charter over all the others.

      I’m curious about what your small-scale dream project would be. I hope that if an opportunity to pursue it pops up, you’ll let us know. I’ve written before about the possibility of using summer school as an innovation incubator – as a charter or lab school for every division. While I know how important summer can be to revitalize teachers, I hope that some teachers will use the flexibility in summer school to try new approaches and share out what they learn.

      Thank you so much for commenting!

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