We all know how hard it is to change things that we’ve been
doing for what seems like forever. If
you have ever tried to quit smoking, lose weight, start exercising, or one of a
thousand other things, you know inertia can seem almost insurmountable.
Sometimes, however, we cannot get the need for change out of
our head. It eats away at us and we might even lose sleep because we can’t stop
thinking about it! Deep down we know something is wrong and we also know
someone must do something about it. Why not let that someone be you?
Usually, we are only one among many who suffer the
consequences of someone else’s inaction. In the case of public
education, everyone suffers because we seem to be stuck in time.
It is even harder when people are bashing us, always telling us we need to do something about this habit or that. No one likes to feel nagged into doing something and we don’t want to be blamed for it.
There is a part of us, however, that just wants to dig in and resist. Often, it is simply a matter of not wanting to admit that the other person might be right, especially when they are right for the wrong reasons; or to suffer what we feel is a blow to our self-esteem; or, just feel the need to defend ourselves from being unfairly blamed.
So, what do we do when there is a crisis and the need for a
dramatic transformation is compelling? How do we overcome the monumental power of
inertia and, often, self-defense?
Many teachers and administrators are
experiencing all these things. They know public education is in crisis and they
are sick and tired of taking the blame. They know many of their students are struggling and nothing we do seems to
change that fact. Of course, even in struggling schools
and classrooms, we do help some of our students but, often, there are
just too many of them.
Teachers also know that all the attention they are asked to
pay to high-stakes testing only makes it worse, not better. The seemingly
incessant focus on preparation for high-stakes testing just makes it harder to
find the time to do the things we know are more important. We also have learned
to resent the data from testing and how the numbers have been weaponized to attack
teachers and the public schools to which we are so
The truth is, teachers don’t need test
scores to understand the problems in public education, because they see
them every day in their schools and classrooms. The education
system, however, is like a runaway train and all educators feel a sense of powerlessness to slow it down, let alone
bring it to a halt.
Even teachers in high-performing schools and classrooms
know, deep down, how fortunate they are to be teaching in district, school, or
classroom where students want to learn. But for the grace of God—or good fortune–they
could be laboring in a classroom where students who want to learn are few.
I challenge all public-school
educators to take a step back and acknowledge that something is wrong
and that the education process within which we
are asked to teach offers no solutions.
I also challenge teachers and administrators to understand
that legislators and policy makers cannot fix what is broken because they are
too far removed from it to comprehend the full breadth and scope of the
challenges facing our public schools.
It is imperative, also, that public school educators understand
that education reformers; with their focus on
charter schools, teacher- and union-bashing, and voucher programs; cannot fix
public education because not only do they not understand how to fix it, they
even fail to comprehend how much damage they do with their criticisms and
The truth is that the only people who can fix what is wrong
in so many of our schools and that harms so many of our nation’s precious sons
and daughters, are the teachers and administrators who are up to their gills in
challenges. What these teachers and educators must be willing to consider is
that the answers cannot be found in the trenches.
It is the trenches, however, where professionals learn what
is not working and they must feel compelled to utilize what they witness,
daily, and what they have learned from those experiences as powerful motivations
to embrace transformational change.
We must take back to the laboratories and drawing boards
that which we learn in the pits, and then utilize the principles of systems’
thinking, of organizational development, and of positive leadership to create
and entirely new way to structure, organize, task, and resource our schools.
Only then are we ready to take these new solutions back to our community
schools and classrooms.
Have no illusions. The only place we can fix public education
in America is in our communities where men, women, and children live, learn,
work, and play; and, the only people who can fix it are the teachers,
administrators, and the parents of our students.
The key to transformational change is not in complaints,
protests, demonstrations, and labor actions—as necessary as they might,
The key to transformational change will come when
professional educators and the communities they serve unite as positive advocates
for a new and innovative idea. It must be understood that the sweeping changes that
will be required will not be found in incremental changes, new approaches, methodologies,
and new technologies, although each of these things will find a home in a new
and well-conceived, 21st Century education process.
I respectfully offer an education model I have developed as a point of embarkation. I call it The Hawkins Model© only to claim the right of authorships. If implemented, someday, my model will be available for free to any public, parochial, or private not-for-profit school that wants to utilize it. The Hawkins Model© was developed from all that I have learned after forty-five years of working with kids, leading organizations, solving problems, working as an independent organizational development and leadership consult, and of walking in the shoes of public school teachers as a substitute teacher in the elementary, middle school, and high school classrooms of a diverse, urban public school corporation.
Please take time to investigate my model. It may prove to be
the solution we need. The very worst that can happen is that it will spark a
better idea in the minds and imaginations of a few of you who are reading this
post. If you are intrigued by what you read, please share it, widely, and open