As I work with schools and talk about the power of connecting and learning with educators around the world, I give a warning to leadership that they are about to open “Pandora’s Box”. Although I do not mean that it will unleash all the “evils of the world”, I do believe that it does open up teachers to practices, teaching, learning, and leadership from around the world. Once educators (and more and more students everyday) see what is happening in other schools, the expectation gets higher for their own organization.
To many leaders, this is exciting. To others, it is terrifying. When you know that your school and your practices can be openly compared to the world, it can be daunting, but many will see it as an opportunity to do something great. Those leaders that see it this way, are the ones that usually have little to worry about. They don’t want their teachers to be better solely because of them; they just want their teachers to be better.
What I have seen with many people that have started to connect is a struggle with what they see, and what they have. Oftentimes, what they see is not as great as they may perceive, as schools rarely, if ever, post the things that they struggle with (many times because of professional and confidentiality reasons), and there is a “grass is always greener” mindset. That being said, when educators see others have an openness in learning and promote innovative teaching and learning, many educators are wondering why they are often stifled in their own career. Sometimes it is perception, but sometimes it is reality.
Many people that are already striving to be better are sponges and crave mentorship, but this is something that you should always be able to get within. Unfortunately, that is not always the case (Kristen Swanson writes a nice piece on finding someone to push you to be better), and people start to tap into “virtual mentors”, whether the “mentor” knows it or not.
Should schools be afraid of this? Probably as much as a hotel should be scared of Trip Advisor. Everyone can say they are great but when you are held to the standard of others, it is not as easy to get away with if it is not true. I see the accountability to one another, which creates an inherent need to be better for students, as a positive. I continue to struggle why others wouldn’t see it the same way.