In Building Leadership Capacity in Schools, Linda Lambert mentions the need for educational leaders to sometimes break the "norm of silence." The n.o.s. looks something like this:
"I won't talk with you about anything you're uncomfortable with."(p. 54)I admit that this has been my attitude towards some (but not all) of my colleagues regarding many of the ideas written about on this blog. Looking back on this practice, I am ashamed to see the change that "could have happened" but didn't due to my silence. For example, I have been mulling over a way to change homework grading practices for several years. It led to the assessment and grading revolution my regular readers know I have been working through and sharing via this blog. I remember when my math education colleagues finally were convinced that posting homework answers on the board for students to see anytime as they worked through the problem sets was a good idea.Why am I, still to this day, ashamed to share my ideas about assessment reform with my colleagues? This hit home several days ago when I sat on a panel of "veteran teachers" speaking to a group of pre-service educators at an evening class. One student asked the question, "What is one thing you would change about the educational system? I suggested that the way we grade and report student progress needs quite a bit of fixing and I had some ideas on how this might be done, but would only share them if there was enough time at the end of the Q&A session. After my colleagues on the panel discussed NCLB and "too much paperwork" as their pet peeves, I could only smile. Was that any surprise to these pre-service teachers? I'm guessing any current introductory to education textbook mentions the pitfalls of NCLB, but grading?!
Sure enough, a brave middle-aged man asked me a follow-up question about grading towards the end of the time allocated for the teacher panel. I boldly laid out an assessment-for-learning rich classroom with a reporting scheme based on learning targets rather than specific assessments. By comparing my system with the traditional grading system, it was easier than I thought to gain the attention and respect of these pre-service teachers. It seemed so easy. Maybe it was the follow-up email from one of the students wanting to know more about this "anti-grades" idea? Maybe it was the conversation with a colleague in the parking lot after the panel about how he might work towards this ideal? I do know that my "assessment secrets" should no longer be purposefully be hidden in a box.
What's stopping me from breaking the "norm of silence" with my own colleagues? What's stopping you from sharing all of the ideas you read, tweet and blog about with your education-minded colleagues?