Let’s face it, nuggets on paper don’t inspire. Board plans don’t inspire, neither do schools plans. They are necessary. They’re set up to be ‘information’ and they do that extremely well. They speak to the left side of the brain. It’s the “What”, not the “Why” of what we do.
Plans identify the work to be done, often through numeric targets. Words like ‘a 3% increase’ don’t inspire. In football, this is like the grinding ground game. No ‘Hail Mary’ passes, no interceptions, no quarterback sacks. It’s a game of inches and percentages. In economic terms, it’s like fracking hydrocarbons. No burst of thick glistening jets from a deep well gurgling excitedly to the surface. No Ghawar fields. It’s trying to get a little above breaking even. ‘Fracking’ may well be the metaphor of our times.
So, whose work is the inspiration? We cannot succeed without it, without undue human cost. One answer comes from Andrew Hargreaves in The Fourth Way. He actually uses the word, ‘inspire’! Rare. Courageous. He also identifies it as one of the roles of leadership. He speaks of the need to trust leaders “…to become inspirational developers of their communities instead of mere managers of imposed targets and external initiatives.” (Hargreaves&Shirley, 2008)
Powerful leaders ‘own’ the Board Improvement Plan and the School Improvement Plan. They have a strong commitment to it, and a passion for achieving its goals – not for the sake of numbers, but because those numbers represent real individuals in their care. That conversion from data and targets to individuals’ experiences of education happens when information is transformed into compassion, drive, and yes, inspiration.
THE FOURTH WAY
Andrew Hargreaves and Dennis Shirley
EDUCATIONAL LEADERSHIP/OCTOBER 2008
Guest author: Jan Kielven