So I found myself frustrated last week.

I spent the afternoon with a group of teachers who had explored Project Based Learning this year through a variety of formats. As we reflected on what worked, what didn’t, and what we’d like to see changed, one of the teachers made a comment along the lines of, “Our division is a top-down division.” He further commented that what’s fair isn’t always equal. I sensed that he was frustrated, and I know several other teachers and administrators around the division feel the same way. I can’t really disagree with him. As a division we have mandated a focus on math and writing this year as priorities for schools – based on data from AFL and our division writing assessments. PLC’s were to be formed around these 2 areas as much as possible, and professional learning is to connect to these division and school-wide focuses as well. So yes, in many respects, the division is mandating the work that people are doing.

Being cognizant that people are feeling this way, I try to provide people choices within some of the constraints they are working in. For example, later that day I was doing a short presentation to a staff about the writing trait of “Organization”. As part of my presentation, I was sharing links to various websites where they could access graphic organizers to use with their students. The request was made that instead of just providing them with links, couldn’t I just provide them a package with the graphic organizers they should be using? I was baffled slightly when I heard this…here I thought I was being helpful by providing them with different choices – when in reality some of them just want to be told what to do. 

I guess really these situations are emblematic of our classrooms, aren’t they? Some of our students want to forge ahead, figure things out on their own and  not be constrained by the expectations of teachers/administrators/curriculum. Others want to be told just what to do – give me the assignment and show me how to do it.

So my question is – how do we deal with this dichotomy on a school division level? How much autonomy should schools and teachers have? How much direction should be given??

Should our schools be left to set their own goals and determine their own professional learning entirely? Or should there be some input from a division level? Where is the balance…and how do we manage it??