With the start of the year comes the routine pitch to staff and students about non-negotiable expectations. I understand that we need to have expectations. Those collective values that bind us together and put everyone on the same page. Those values that lay a foundation on which learning can occur. However, how these non-negotiables are presented to staff and students has a considerable impact on what sort of learning this is and how these expectations are taken up and carried out. This includes the reasons we provide for such expectations, the manner in which they are presented and most importantly, the length of the presentation. Sadly these speeches and spiels are given with little thought to convincing and instead focus on pulling everyone into line.
Towards the end of last year I attended the AEU's 'Active Training' Professional Development Session. During the discussion of the consultative committee and staff meetings, one of the union presenters suggested that these were prime opportunities for a principal to to sell his or her vision for the school. What is disappointing is that such forums are anything but a sell. They often become mechanistic and fail to provide the means for an open dialogue, an opportunity for leadership to not only provide feedback to staff, but also an opportunity for staff to provide feedback to leadership.
In a recent post on creating a class agreement, +Edna Sackson explores what sort of learning is promoted by the agreement created. Providing an array of positive and negative examples found online, she gives a short commentary on each. More interestingly though, Sackson ends with a list of activities to help create a meaningful class agreement. What she is pointing out is that although the class agreement itself is important, just as significant is environment in which they are created.
So often we get caught up in the definition or expectations when it is the creation and presentation of such ideas is just as, if not more, important. As +Doug Belshaw suggests in regards to digital literacies, the most important thing is often the actual process of coming up with a definition of what constitutes ‘digital literacies’, rather than the actual definition itself. As I have stated elsewhere, what often matters is not what message is sold, rather how that message is presented. In the end, the real non-negotiable is not whether staff and students wear the right uniform or the way they use technology, rather the real non-negotiable is the positive means in which we present ourselves to others and whether we are willing to provide a legitimate reason for people to follow.