I am prepping by reading the packet of articles for a class through Harvard’s Project Zero next week.
The mini session is called “Effective Professional Learning Communities: Supporting Learning in Staff Rooms and Classrooms”. Daniel Wilson is the facilitator. The first article is called Building a Professional Learning Community by Richard DuFour.
DuFour addresses a very real conundrum I see over and over in education “The Tyranny of the Or”: the belief that we must make a choice between option A or option B.
- Explicit Instruction vs Constructivism
- Whole Language vs. Phonics
- Workshop vs. Guided Reading
- Multi-Tiered System of Support vs. Teach Well and Just love them
These false dichotomies, I believe, support unnecessary conflict in schools. This is particularly evident when special educators and general educators have discussions about “how” and “what” to teach.
DuFour discusses how administrators often struggle with the “and/or” dichotomy when deciding how to lead. Should they be the forceful leader or support site-based decisions? Successful superintendents embrace “The Genius of And”;
“The strategy proven most effective, however, is one that is loose and tight, a strategy that establishes a clear priority and discernible parameters and then provides each school and department with the autonomy to chart its own course for achieving the objectives.”
If we all focused on the big idea (say, student learning) and truly know where our students are and what they need, we will free ourselves up from this false dichotomy.
even if it forces us to crack out the phonics book and do a little explicit instruction