In countless conversations, I have talked with numerous people about the phenomenon of school change. Basically, schools are slow to change. At TEDx last week, several speakers made mention of the almost glacial rate of change that seems to describe schools. Why are schools generally so slow to change? Certainly, the slow rate of change must be related to the degree of isolation that describes the condition of most teachers in most schools. Since the Prussians created that model of schooling over 200 years ago that still exists in most U.S. schools today, teachers have worked in relative isolation. For the most part, schools have not enabled systems for teachers to work and learn together, collaborating during job-embedded team time. During my recent TEDx talk, I mentioned Kathy Boles’ description of schools as the “egg-crate culture.” For the most part, teachers do not live in a system that encourages exchange of ideas.
Then, on Saturday, the Wall Stree Journal published an essay by Matt Ridley – Humans: Why They Triumphed. Essentially, Ridley argues that creative invention among humans occurs because of exchange…trade. “The rate of cultural and economic progress depends on the rate at which ideas are having sex.”
So, if schools hope to keep up with the rate of change predicted for the 21st century, then we must create opportunities for greater exchange and trade of ideas among teachers. We must enable teachers to collaborate as a regular and expected mode of work. Let’s practice what we know to be best practice. What if we re-imagined the egg-crate and nested the eggs together? What if schools were structured so that teachers could exhange ideas and creatively innovate for educating 21st century learners? Schools might lead the change of the future, rather than struggling to keep pace.