Thursday, October 4, 2018

From Factory Order to the Complexity of Nature

We all know the old metaphor of school being like a factory. It's a bit cliche now- it's been used so much.

During the industrial revolution, factories were revolutionised by the assembly line. Each person in the line would have responsibility for a certain part of the product, and when they all worked together, the finished product would come together. Rather than one person making a product, a whole lot of people working together could get it done much, much faster.

Schools were based on this assembly line model. Children were grouped into batches (year groups) and were moved through the process with a whole lot of different people contributing to the overall product. The children would have a different subject every hour and those hours would be separated by bells. Efficiency was valued over everything else. (Jono Broom- Moving Away from the Factory Model, January 2014)

"...the first factory-type schools, whose main purpose was to prepare kids to obey, follow a schedule, and be trained and retrained for the assembly-line jobs most of them were going to take on." (Will Richardson, 'Why School' September 12)

In some cases, authors have used the term "factory model" as a metaphor. As an example, the animation and text of Sir Ken Robinson's TedTalk compares students in schools to materials in a factory and references children's "date of manufacturing" as a sorting mechanism.

One of my challenges for the week, after reading the article Education Needs Different Metaphors by Sam Chaltain was to invent a new metaphor for schooling the way we are doing it now.

I pondered and thought and read. And the more I searched for something truly inspirational to create the more stuck I became. I could think of lots of examples in nature, but I think I was looking for something else.

However a walk down the beach on a beautiful Christchurch October afternoon had me come upon this. And I just stood there thinking that's it. That pile of sticks is the metaphor for everything we do at Haeata.

Maybe the new metaphors come to me so much from nature because nature is so fluid and ever changing. Maybe thats why nature is beckoning to me as a metaphor.

So how do the sticks represent Haeata for me?

  • There's lots of different things happening simultaneously just like you can walk into our learning environments and find 800 children all doing something different. 
  • Some of the logs are supporting other logs while also doing their own thing just like our teachers support and learn with, alongside and from our students. 
  • Sometime birds and seagulls swoop in and land on the logs for a little while and then fly off again, just like how we engage people from outside school to supplement and support whats happening inside 
  • There's a firm grounding underneath what looks like a random structure just like how what appears to be a random group of kids all doing random things to the outside eye when you come into Haeata actually has a real structure and serious consideration to that structure underneath. 
  • In short there are multiple connections leading to multiple pathways.

To use the terms of the Cynefin framework we have moved from the simple (factory analogy) to the complex.

Much harder to understand. Not linear.

Much more exciting and energising and giving a place for all to be, to learn and to grow. Not like the old model designed to fail as many as it was designed to let succeed.

A place for all to grow in whichever way is best for them supported by many others in many different ways.

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