Some thoughts for tonight… (as I try to get back in the habit of writing.)
Recently, someone made a comment to me that I’ve heard over the years… basically wondering why I’m not more ambitious about my career, as if moving on from SLA to some other job would mean a more successful career somehow.
It’s strange, some combination of America’s fascination with “rugged individualism,” capitalism and an over-reliance in MacGregor’s Theory X of Management in our schools and districts has led to a version of “ambition” in educational careers that makes me sad.
All over the country, you see a lot of people racing toward positions of leadership — some years in the classroom, then principalship, then district admin or being a consultant and such… and a lot of those folks are able to do that because they were wonderful teachers or principals.
And that’s not to say that we don’t need amazing leaders at the district, state, etc… levels.
But I’m not sure that the way educational careers are framed in society today is even making sure that we get the leaders we need at those levels often enough anyway.
But what if we took a more communitarian and collectivist approach to schools? What if “ambition” could also defined as a group of educators who wanted to ensure that the school was (to quote Angelo Patri) “wide awake, responsive to its people…the best of its kind?”
What could we accomplish if the conditions existed – internally and externally – that it was easier for educators to see – and be validated for – a career at a school where there was a collective ambition to be great at what we did together?
How would that impact how students saw themselves in our schools?
How could that impact how kids learned?
That’s always been a goal of mine for SLA — to try to create the space where educators, parents and kids could feel that sense of collective ambition and achievement over time.
On our best days — in our best years — I think we get close.
And lately, I’m thinking a lot about how the larger American system could make it a lot easier for all of us to approach that goal in more places and far more often.