As time passes, I’m more and more convinced that education is really a design problem, and the design brief calls for depth, connection, and authenticity if the educational experience is to be remembered and made useful to the student after leaving school.
A dozen years ago John Taylor Gatto explained in detail the failure of the design that predominates today. These days I’m reading a lot about design thinking, most recently, Tim Brown’s, Change by Design. A nice infographic I found the other day illustrates how to use design thinking to create deeper learning experiences. Note that the infographic shows that school culture is the foundation required for developing depth in education, which is instructive. Schools with well-established trust in the community should be able to “go deep” more easily than those that haven’t established that trust.
As we begin planning for next year, I’m excited to bring design ideas to bear in our community at large and in our classrooms in particular. Next, I plan to read Nicholas Carr’s, The Shallows, to guide me in thinking more about how digital technology—the current golden child of educational change—fits into deep education.
Authenticity is a hot word these days in leadership. Gotta have it. At the same time, if you spend a lot of energy considering your authenticity, doesn’t the very act of considering it also mean that you are compromising it? It seems paradoxical, but I don’t think it is.
Consider what authenticity means in relation to the self. The self has to have a stable referent over time. I have to be the same me who shows up to work each day; there are no stunt doubles in educational leadership. But it is also true that this self isn’t entirely static over time. I keep learning, which keeps changing me. Some of that change also comes from deliberate reflection and mindfulness.
Clearly, authenticity can’t mean unchanging. The so-called work-life balance is often treated as a static arrangement. It isn’t. Balance is dynamic equilibrium, “dynamic” being the quality that allows for equilibrium over the changes we face across days, weeks, and months. Yet, we don’t call it the “work-life stasis,” because achieving that balance requires movement, which requires ongoing adjustments and modifications. In other words, change.
Perhaps evolution is a better way of describing authenticity through change. The steady evolution each of us experiences has to occur at a rate that leaves the self feeling whole and stable enough to be authentic. And it’s hard to imagine an authentic person never changing, otherwise the world would be run by toddlers. Not a good idea.