Thursday, July 9, 2009

Building Capacity From Within (Part 1)

This is the first in a series of blog posts about harnessing the internal talent of a school district. When a school system decides that they really want to affect change and systemic improvement, it’s important to tap into the most valuable resource they have: each other.

If we are going to translate high standards into effective instruction and outstanding student performance across all grade levels in a district, wouldn’t it be great to see an intrinsic motivation to do so? What’s going to be more valuable to a teacher—an outside consultant with no frame of reference for their district or their peers that they work with daily? (I’m not saying ditch outside consultation, as that is my bread and butter—but perhaps districts could create turnkey trainers, or create models of PD in their districts that represent sustainability and ongoing support beyond the initial workshop.)

I realize I may be shooting myself in the foot a bit with this, but sustainability and empowerment are key to building second order changes, or changes that are going have a lasting effect. While I enjoy going into a district and working with teachers, there is always a concern about sustainability. Especially when dealing with instructional technology. I like my job, and my frame for doing what I do has always been doing what’s best for my students. In my current capacity, “students” is more far reaching than ever before. Doing what is best is not about facts, or show and tell, or drive by “wow” sessions. It’s about shifting the thinking of those you are teaching. That means I’m talking about intentional transformations from what once was to what will be with an eye that is more deeply fixed in process than product, and ultimately how those transformations are going to impact student performance.

Over the course of the next few blog posts, I’ll be writing about the importance of what Janet Hale calls “servant leaders.” I’ll be discussing the collegiality that is necessary to create a vibrant and sustainable Professional Learning Network at both the school level and then expanding globally with Digital Learning Networks. Additionally, I’ll be discussing these transformative events in terms of Angela Maier’s Habitudes, as attitude is everything when shifting paradigms. I’ll also be sharing the seven steps to building capacity in a school district and making the most of a district’s varied (and surprising) talents!


  1. Mike-
    The sign of a good teacher is their ability to make themselves obsolete. Our work needs to be more about advancing independence of our learners, whatever thier age, than about "covering" our content and agenda. Bravo to you for your learning Habitudes. I look forward to following the conversations!

  2. Hi Mike,

    I believe a "hit and run" consultant is not very effective. Mining a school district for untapped talent and capitilizing on that to provide accessible support for the important and worthy concepts that you provide as a consultant is more likely to result in a lasting impact. Isn't that what we all wish for -- that our efforts have some lasting impact?