Set the Learning Free

Guest post by Jill Janes


“Management...follows general rules, which are more or less stable,...and which can be learned.” ~Max Weber

Management. Be it district management, classroom management, or bus-line management, our K-12 schools abound with issues of management. Many of the activities within our schools must somehow be managed, and I believe there is a time and a place for centralized management and structure like Weber describes.

Within a school district, I believe that well thought out and consistent procedures can streamline routines and allow the focus within educational organization to be on teaching and learning. Likewise, putting procedures in play in classrooms as a teacher allows for efficiency. Classical structures with a role of central management can be balanced with a role of facilitator of learning. That being said, I find myself questioning some of our widely and long-time accepted practices and procedures in education.

Don’t get me wrong, there is a wide body of literature that I find fascinating supporting leadership and classroom management practices. There is a side of me that is a bit obsessive compulsive about orderliness. (Ask my family how proud I am of my ridiculously organized spice cabinet...) I become a bit giddy about a well-planned process that provides a streamlined approach to anything. The efficient classroom that wastes little time on activity transitions or obtaining materials certainly makes me happy. The yearly professional development plan with dates and activities detailed creates peace for my inner-planner.

However, I am beginning to understand more and more that excellent environments for learning do not always appear orderly at first glance. Learning is messy. It does not occur in a vacuum. It is different for each individual. The structure that works for one learner may hinder the innovative approach that another needs to thrive. All of this makes the obsessive compulsive orderly side of me squirm. But my realization in this is that my learning needs require structure, while others’ needs may not. Whether our learners are administrators, teachers, support staff, or students, the management structures and procedures we utilize must allow room for individual learning needs.

How do we as educational leaders in classroom, building, and district roles find equilibrium in the structures we put in place? How do we ensure that the structures do indeed streamline the learning and not hinder the innovation? How do we learn to recognize the structure that some learners need and relax those structures for others?

We can discuss differentiation, personalization, or competency and mastery models. But in the end, a model or theory won’t get the job done. Each of us must step into our roles and reflect on the procedures we have enacted and ask: does this tie down learning or set it free?

Image credit: Vironevaeh

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