Today, Smartbrief in Social Media featured Mashable’s  5 New Paradigms for a Socially Engaged Company.  It made me think about school, especially after getting caught up in Tracey Baptiste’s (Freshly-Pressed and well-attended) WordPress article on school reform.  So now I’d just like to say that maybe we should think some more about how we engage our youth.

Waiting with my son to see a counselor one morning, I sat in the office of the local high school and listened – without much else to do – to the office administrator’s voice as she answered the phone and greeted the folks who approached her desk.  As we waited for quite some time, I began to notice a pattern in her inflection: I could tell when she was talking to students.  If someone talked that way to me, I’d give up and hang up, or walk out and go somewhere to find respect.  I hope, hope, hope, that the kids who spoke with her that day had a responsible and loving adult to support them in their frustration with Everyone-Older-than-30;  do you think?

I know kids have Attitude.  I know that adults respond primarily out of fear: we’re afraid that we can’t speak the same language anymore, we’re afraid that they won’t even listen, we’re afraid that they’ll find out we’re too old to be useful.

The biggest problem is, we’re not only responding this way, many are setting out to engage this way.

After homeschooling four kids for over eight years, I learned a lot of things about kids, one of those things being this: kids don’t disrespect their elders until the elders disrespect them.

Kids in school spend a lot of time being bossed around – sometimes even bullied – by people older than they are, so it’s no wonder they have an attitude.  No wonder they don’t look at you but through you. That’s fear, too.  They’re afraid you won’t understand them, that you no longer speak the same language, that you won’t even listen, that you’ll think they’re too young to be useful.

Even waaaay back in the days when I was in school (a long time ago, never mind how long), it was understood that if the faculty could engage the students in after-school activities, to make them feel a part of school life, those kids would have a better chance of success…in school, and life.  It works for some.  But…

Nobody wants to stay late at work, why should they stay after school? They spend enough time there as it is.  That doesn’t mean we can’t find ways to engage them in stuff that happens to take place at school.  Maybe it would help to make classes more interesting and collaborative. Geez, here’s a new idea: Maybe we should ask them how.

Shamelessly pirated from “5 New Paradigms for a Socially Engaged Company”, here are some new paradigms to consider for school (with the word “students” where “employees” used to be):

1. Culture

The Old Paradigm: “Force students to do what you want.”

The New Paradigm: “Give students what you want them to offer.”

Students will rise to the expectations placed upon them. If you treat them like children, they will act like children. But, show them respect and trust and they will respond to your expectation.

2. Mindset

Old Paradigm: “Just put your body in the room.”

New Paradigm: “Show up with a creative, open mindset.”

3. Group Wisdom

Old Paradigm: “All wisdom exists at the top.”

New Paradigm: “Listen and make space for various voices.”

4. Environment

Old Paradigm: “Do what is normal.”

New Paradigm: “Approach space creatively to serve the purpose.”

5. Vision

Old Paradigm: “Work because you’re told to.”

New Paradigm: “Make your work about something bigger.”

And while I’m at it, I’ll borrow the Conclusion, which works as well for school as it does for corporate:

“While we cannot force innovation and creative thinking, we can foster these abilities, whether we work in a 20,000-person company or with one other person.

“The old paradigm was individualistic and focused on thriving to be personally brilliant; the new one is much more social, and it involves creating cultures that enhance innovation in all those present. The companies and teams that can do this, that can create cultures that support innovation and engagement, will create the leading technologies and services that affect our culture.”

I’ll be back to discuss this some more.  In the meantime, I’d enjoy hearing your comments.


2 thoughts on “Social engagement works for corporations, why not schools?

  1. It’s so nice to come across a blog about positive attitudes! Thanks for this, and thanks for linking to my education post. It’s truly a shame when kids aren’t respected. I’m sorry to say that in my older child’s elementary school that happens as well. And it’s up to parents to ensure that kids’ needs are met/voices are heard.

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