People tell me they like what I offer because I understand the complexities of school; I’ve been in the classroom when all hell is breaking loose; I’ve been called all the names under the sun and I’ve experienced the pressure of the workload around report writing time or in the lead-up to Year 12 exams.
So given this type of feedback, this column might appear a little counter-intuitive, but bear with me.
Of late, I’ve noticed just how many ‘solutions’ in education are marketed as being developed ‘by teachers, for teachers’ or something similar.
Whilst the appeal of this is obvious, it has occurred to me this might not necessarily always be the ideal.
In schools it is not uncommon for outside agencies to be brought in to consult on initiatives, but should the consultant lack a background in education they can be quickly dismissed by a less than enthusiastic staffroom. After all, what would they know?
Yet in other sectors and industries it is often seen as advantageous to bring people in from other domains as they are free of the common assumptions that sometimes hold innovation back.
‘Outsiders’ can see a universally accepted practice that would usually go unchallenged and ask, ‘Why do you do that?’ and in doing so can spark a conversation that otherwise would not have taken place.
I’ve seen firsthand how some educators aren’t keen to seek contradictory perspectives, preferring instead to find evidence to support their existing beliefs.
What’s more, it is interesting to note how many school leaders isolate themselves from other industries, believing that the challenges education presents are unique.
Of course, some are unique. But many aren’t.
This isn’t a criticism, as it could be described as human nature and indeed is often referred to as confirmation bias.
However, this bias can be reinforced if all of our ‘solutions’ are designed by educators for educators.
This is not to imply that educators are incapable of providing insight – far from it – rather it’s to suggest that every now and then it might be worthwhile bringing in a complete outsider to see what happens.
My reasoning has come about because of the work I do with leaders, observing how their context, and by extension their mindset, shape how decisions are made within the organisation.
By bringing in someone from outside education, you might find they can suggest a new way of handling communications, performance reviews or meetings.
Their questions might spark a new way of addressing the ever-present issues of teacher and principal wellbeing or funding.
Or they might not. We won’t find out unless we give it a try.