[The following is an excerpt from a book I’m currently writing for self-publication later this year (2018). Any feedback is welcome!]
The most integral component of collaborative work is that a team believes it can make a positive difference. In other words, stories are told to one another stating collective effort matters and will increase student learning. As John Hattie’s research shows, teacher collective efficacy is the way through which teachers can help quadruple the amount of learning a student can accomplish. This is a belief system, which Robert Greene call the Strategy of the Crown in his book 48 Laws of Power:
“The Strategy of the Crown is based on a simple chain of cause and effect: If we believe we are destined for great things, our belief will radiate outward, just as a crown creates an aura around a king.”
Educators must believe they can positively affect student learning. In this era of data, we expect information to be sufficient to change people’s minds. This may be true in some cases, but in many other cases data fails at changing behavior. Why do people continue smoking when there’s ample evidence proving what it does to your body? Why do people still drink and drive in a world with Lyft and Uber? Why do some people not work out or eat healthy food? Why don’t people read more books, start side businesses, or stay off social media when more and more studies prove the negative effects of Facebook and Instagram? It’s because data oftentimes doesn’t matter–what people need is a story.
As a leader within an organization, it’s your job to provide that story. Sure, information is extremely helpful, but rather than start a staff meeting with graphs and tables showing the growth or decline of the school in various areas and sub-areas, it’s more important to tell specific stories of how students are thriving at your school. Write up a story about how an EL student was reclassified. Share how a student in GATE class created a project that was honored by a local energy company due to its technical skill. Tell a story about the students who were able to go on that field trip because they all scored proficiently on a formative assessment.
As Yuval Noah Harari states, humans are transitioning from an era of “humanism” to an era of “dataism.” Data is not going anywhere. In fact, it’s just going to become more prevalent when making decisions regarding what to buy, where to live, what to do as an occupation, who to marry, etc. There’s nothing wrong with using data–data is extremely important–but Homo sapiens have had the same brain for 70,000 years. Just because data and information have crept into our professional practice doesn’t mean telling each other stories is a dead practice. We will need stories for many more generations, and practices such as The Strategy of the Crown help blend data with the stories we tell ourselves concerning not only the power we have within, but the collective power we possess when striving for high student achievement.