What do you want?

Over the past few weeks a couple of phrases have been repeated and they bother me. These phrases are, “If it’s good for one, it’s good for all;” and “what’s left to accomplish?

For the past three plus years, I’ve heard if it’s good for one, it’s good for all repeated time and again as an anti-charter statement. In most circumstances, I’d be talking to an educator about the work the planning team had been doing to get a new progressive school off the ground, I’d be met with, the if-it’s-good-for-one-it’s-good-for-all stare. I get what people are saying. I understand the logic behind the statement. I think it goes something like this:
There’s a system, a right way of doing things, we do it the right way so there’s no reason for a different path.

What troubles me about about the good for one good for all is the depersonalization of the phrase and philosophy. All the credit goes to an efficiently run system and not to the individuals doing great things within the system. One thing that helped me with addressing teachers in the staff lounge or people in grocery store lines was this phrase: What do you want?

I am direct, and sometimes down right callous, so I would take a deep breath and let the person telling how students in personalized learning environments aren’t actually learning, and I would ask as if I’m a waiter asking the individuals feasting, “Do you know what you want?”

This happened on more than one occasion in more than one setting.

“What do you mean?”

“I mean, do you know exactly what type of education you want people– all people to have?”

Typically, I wouldn’t provide enough wait time before rolling into the statement meant to provide a take away and allow me to exit the conversation as gracefully as possible.

“My daughter loves Berenstain Bears, but her cousin, my niece who is just a bit older has always loved Dora. So what do you tell a two and three year old who is on fire with learning, with meeting new characters in new settings, and with exploring words? Because I don’t have the heart to tell them, if it’s good for one, it’s good for all. My hardest decision is which book do I read aloud first.”

And I pick up my groceries and sprint to my car, or grab my Ramen and sprint to my colleagues classroom where I eat lunch. When I hear, it’s good for one it’s good for all gobaleegook, I think of a rabble rouser that left an indelible mark- Ian Jukes. In 2007, my district brought in Ian Jukes for a full day ProfDev session. Some ridiculed his fanciful notions, but others, we were hooked. TTWADI. That’s been my five year take away. Ian has a great way of starting fires, many many fires. After starting fires in my brain for several hours, he provided an answer.

You know why we keep doing it this way? I have the answer and I’m going to tell it to you. Ian takes a drink from his water bottle, eats a bite of his imitation crab dip or something of the sort, and goes on. Here’s the answer, are you ready for the answer? He points to someone in the front row, are you ready for the answer, Ian is talking to a district staff of 500, I think even the laggards were peaked, BECAUSE THAT’S THE WAY WE’VE ALWAYS DONE IT. TTWWADI. Ian repeated this statement time and time again. Apparently, his TTWWADI presentation is leaving a mark on more than just me. Google “Ian Jukes TTWWADI,” you’ll get great stuff.

I think Ian’s TTWWADI are bullets used by good for one, good for all folks. Here’s some ammunition for those seeking to fire back at the good for one, good for all folks. At 6:11pm last Friday, I received the following email from and 8th grade student:

I just made a Kornerstone School app with a simple app builder. It is the full website but it look pretty cool. Download the attachment, install to your phone, and tell me if you want it on the market. I won’t be offended if you don’t want it on the market! 

That’s right. Learning is happening. It’s occurring all the time. It’s happening everywhere. The tools available now make it possible for young adults and children to create their own learning. DIY (Do It Yourself) is here to stay. Who goes home from school on a Friday and creates apps? Good for one, good for all is bad. Next time I hear it, I don’t think I’m going to use Berenstein Bears on them, I think I’m going to talk about 13 year olds going to New York City to study terrorism. I think I’m going to tell them the link to see tear-evoking documentaries created by 14 year olds. Or, I think I’m going to ask, what do you want? Good-for-one-good-for-aller, what do you really want? Please tell me, because you might actually be right and I need to know.

While listening to talk radio last week, the talking head stated, “What was there left for Robert Griffin III to accomplish?” This statement bugged me. As a coach, I’m always preaching, enjoy the journey & it’s about the process not the product. Maybe this young man loves his team and loves being in college. The problem with putting everything on accomplishments, human beings are then wide open for judgement. If RG3 comes back to college, imagine the stories that would be spun about him not being able to make it or some flaw in his game preventing him from being an NFL quarterback.  Accomplishment driven debate drives me crazy. I see accomplishment driven debate all the time in education. Whether it’s stacking AP courses to save $25,000 of college expenses, aligning entire libraries of curriculum, or instituting behavior models teaching eight year olds not to say “hello” in the hallway; a deep focus on measurable accomplishments is counter to enjoying process and journey. Just a few years ago, I would have laughed at the person writing the previous sentence. Enjoying the journey and embracing the process is relatively new for me. I had several people, many of whom were bosses, colleagues, and family (and even a bureaucrat or two) – point out the important things in life. What do you want? That’s a question I was asked often.

In answering the questions stated in the last paragraph, I completely understand the high school sophomore, junior, or senior taking AP courses now rather than paying full tuition later. But what are the ripples of implementing a ‘behavior modification’ system designed at keeping eight year olds not only in straight lines, but silent straight lines with hands by their side. I would have been in huge trouble, maybe even expelled. My daughter turns three this March. I have big decisions to make. Where do I send her to school? I created a spread sheet about six months ago with all of the educational options within a fifteen mile drive of our house. My wife and I are fortunate. There are several outstanding schools in several outstanding school districts within a fifteen mile radius of our house. When looking under the surface, when looking a bit deeper, I became troubled with some of the systems in place at a few of these schools. I was forced to answer once again, what do you want? One day about three years ago, Tom Krause (@krauseunc) were both to become fathers for the first time, and we started planning a school our children could attend. Little did we know, our talks over lunch and prep would lead to a dynamic learning environment. Now, three years later, when faced with four year old Kindergarten, the answers are murky…neighborhood school versus Montessori versus elementary in neighboring high achieving district versus versus versus. How do parents decide where to send their kids to school in the age of choice? That’s another post for another time. What I want is for my daughter to have at least the opportunity I had. I want her to be child. I want her to fall in love with words, letters, shapes, and to have nap time. I want her to build imaginary worlds with new people her age. Most importantly, I want her to be safe, know she is valued, and enjoy the journey.

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About Michael

Do Work!
This entry was posted in Charter School, Kornerstone, Teaching. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to What do you want?

  1. Love this post Michael. Best thing I’ve read all week. I also struggle with the desire for conformity among educators, myself included in that at times.

  2. Thanks for the comments Curt. I’ve been a big fan of you site for quite some time, http://curtrees.com/ — I noticed you have Bonk’s World is Open on your Shelfari. I really enjoyed that read. That book made me hyperconscious about the need for students to create their content. Again, many thanks for reading the post and I hope to dialog more.

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