Day 58 (of 189) Nuance by @michaelfullan1 – does it live up to its hype?
“Students are natural change agents – if 65% are not engaged now….what if we reduced that to 20%?” Use the group to change the group and all will benefit. <— I read this near the end of the book but felt it deserved to be at the start….
I finally got to Nuance on my reading list. A joint publication by the @bcpvpa (BC Principals and Vice Principals) @OPcouncil (Ontario Principals) and the subject of a few book clubs I was optimistic to catch up to.
So I will be sharing pieces “live (for me) and asynchronous (for you)”:
And with an opening declaration that society in general is worsening and education is less effective in its role of producing citizens – and a purpose of the book is to identify the characteristics of leaders who can leverage deep change for the better – nuanced leaders… I’m intrigued, because the data shows that this is the safest time to be alive (despite what it may feel like when watching cnn…) and I am increasingly impressed with my kids (and their peers) connection to the larger world community. Awareness of our climate and environment is much more aware of the details than when I was a student, and there is a greater acceptance of people (no matter how unique) than when I was in school. So I’m curious to see where he goes….
I had noticed one summary (when I was looking into the book) that was intriguing: nuanced leadership embraces complexity and integrates competing forces in ways that foster deep understanding, collaborative learning and accountability, and sustainable rather than superficial solutions.
And I like the challenge: how do leaders become clearer as complexity increases. Or as a former BCPVPA leader put it on a t-shirt: volume + complexity = volexity (a few of us liked it but not enough for it to go viral 😜)
And ironically (perhaps) the day I started nuance an article by Alfie Kohn on “presentations” has me making some wonders: https://www.alfiekohn.org/blogs/applause/
Chapter 1 thoughts:
Points out that what works for one person to be successful may not for another – and difference may be nuance (and I’m thinking the same for larger learning communities…) – and turning the page confirmed this: don’t seek the obvious; seek meaning with your people.
Oh yeah, and regarding nuance: if you have to define it, you don’t have it. Ouch – but gotta see the patterns below the surface (one of the skills I believe is essential in any educational leader: synthesize the “stuff” going on – more than just collecting data – but also more than just seeking qualitative data too…
And an interesting look at the “deceptive closeness” we have – the irony that I have noticed when I felt closer to a group of principals in Arkansas than I did to the educators down the highway; the tools are there to continue the 10,000 year pursuit of “connections” yet our feelings are making it harder to engage or accommodate different points of view (me: because we don’t have to – I’ve got a team of likeminded education disrupters on my PLN that I can DM at a moments notice…. yet I know @theweirdteacher points out that many social media educators will block or ignore rather than engage in dialogue/critiques about a claim/statement/tweet – the tools are not doing all they can).
Is it: if you try to make me think harder, I’ll think more superficially? <— this definitely makes me connect to my work around descriptive feedback: work smarter not harder! is not helpful!
And (ouch!) conventional school is boring at best and we are doing obsolete things better than ever before!
1. Joint determinism (unity and purpose is action)
2. Adaptability (adjust and pivot as needed)
3. Cultural based accountability (commitment and responsibility through trust and interaction
Why we need the habit of da Vinci’s detail: living within the process of change.
Some sticky phrases:
Jointly determined change: be right at the end of the meeting
Adaptability: learn and lead in equal measure
Culture based accountability: trust and interact
Chapter 2 (jointly determined change) thoughts:
Love the notion that leadership is fluid because it is always a process.
Neat share on Mary Parker Follett from the 1920s who focused on “obeying the law of the situation” where the particular details matter.
Also a neat look at single loop vs double loop looking at be have our and underlying beliefs.
And great case study showing the necessity of unity of purpose and action to make progress….
Chapter 3 (adaptability) thoughts:
“The ability of leaders to change their minds when a strategy is not working is not as prevalent as we might wish”. How often do “we” stick with an under performing plan/strategy?
Have a mindset that “doesn’t laminate your improvement process and create a poster because it might be changed next month” (and one lesson that could be taught in a masters program could be spending hours to create a ‘thing’ that gets put/thrown away. Because the thinking is still valuable for later considerations even if it’s not right for “now” (or what the original intention was).
Book referral: Shattering Inequities by Robin Avelar La Salle and Ruth Johnson
Addressing inequity is a confounding issue that requires both bluntness and flexibility.
The ouch reference: there is no reason for the majority of students to take conventional learning – in reference to why deep learning matters…. as it can benefit disconnected students (which I love as a reference because I have seen that too as I invested in doing more PBL work and assessing via descriptive feedback in efolios…!)
From 2018 DL book: engage the world change the world
⁃ students as change agents
⁃ the equity hypothesis
⁃ the mater of catalytic Cs (competencies)
⁃ theme of “engage the world”
Nuance in this chapter: deliberately seeking insight from not so obvious places…. shifting course based on what you are learning.
Chapter 4 thoughts (culture based accountability)
Interesting that as I was diving into this chapter I was also listening to Howard Stern talk about the Presidents Physical Fitness Test/Contest and how that changed the culture of gym and how gym teachers were being looked at based on how their students did on the “test portion” – led to a conversation how it changed the culture of what the focus of gym classes were, including how humiliation was used as a strategy to get pull-up successes. Just made me pause to consider how quickly a culture can change (and how easy it is for humiliation and fear to come to the forefront)
An observation from Tim Brighouse (Birmingham CEO who sued his minister of education when caught on an open mike wondering why “that nutter” was hired) was the importance of communication (as nuance) because of the need to “affect” climate at every level (including sometimes being an umbrella of protection from outside storms)
Viviane Robinson reminds us of the history of the isolation of classrooms that tends to lead to “parallel play” rather than joint accountability.
Interventions may make matters worse while leaving things alone may lead to stagnation and no improvement….
The flip side of nuance in the face of complex issues is failure.
Book referral: the Testing Charade (Daniel Koretz)
Performance appraisals….”dangerous half truths and total nonsense”
Performance appraisal is episodic, very few are good at it, and, above all, it is an extremely weak intervention for changing people’s behaviour.
Book referral: How Performance Management is killing performance (Tamra Chandler)
And does PD change belief and practice?
Even a look at PLCs which range in success (I have been part of deep change focus ones and as hoc quick fix ones as mentioned here….)
Probable because no amount of external (and top down) accountability will be effective in the absence of internal account (very true in my best PLC experiences)
Sticky Change Phrases
1. Use the group to change the group
2. Precision over prescription
3. Feedback: collaboration, cantor and autonomy
4. Trust and interact vs trust but verify
5. See the forest and the trees
6. accountability as a culture
1. The opposite of nuance is directness. When we participate as a learner, the factors associated with increased student achievement become clear: leading, teaching, learning and development.
2. Nuance leaders are famous for resolving dilemmas; to get at precision without imposition.
3. good feedback is the cornerstone of individual and group growth; and humans want feedback in general, but not specific (unless it is praise) – and a reminder: autonomy is not isolation.
4. Trust is a verb before it becomes a state.
5. When plugged in , you see he big picture, little picture and interconnections…the patterns
6. external accountability (on its own) has a poor track record; when we de-privatize our practices, we get to authentic accountability
whether a thunderbolt of disruption or other, the common solution is: Improve from inside
Chapter 5 (nuanced leaders and the world)
Education needs to be in its proper position with the role of serving all students not just some, and not just some that we would prefer to work with —> nuanced leaders are saviours in this equation of “attacking inequity”.
Okay, I like a good conflict: fullan here says if we leave “it” to machines, we will end up with bad/misleading data. Yet Gladwell in talking with strangers points out that in legal situations machines make better decisions… and sure, humans + computers trump either one alone….I guess….😜
So it is nice as we enter this final section that Fullan & friends still believe education can reclaim a role as individual and societal saviour (on a night where my daughter shared her own frustration of school because her teachers are having a meeting to discuss if they are lowering standards for students or if the work they are being asked to do does not link up to the big ideas of the curriculum…. weighty questions….) nor does our traditional education carry relevance to true learning (beyond the boring memorizing and regurgitating of factoids – as my youngest said, if I need to know something about queen Elizabeth, I’ll check my phone – and yes, we had a discussion where she agreed that memorizing facts that had relevance and meaning was different, because it can be differentiated…)
And so good to see fullan start the discussion of the hidden and not so hidden barriers connected to economics and race… we have to acknowledge that individuals (minority and at risk especially) will not just “figure it out” – grit ain’t enough!
And this resonated strongly with my kiddo:
Along with her wonder as to why she should be doing a test on the Competencies (6Cs) or if that wasn’t yet another 🙄
With a powerful wonder: are the inequities of racism poverty gender and sexual preference too deeply rooted in our current model to change?
And I agree with (one of) his hypothesis that by making disconnected students a priority we reach other non-learners as well!
And a wonderful diatribe about “canary children” on page 109 – well worth a couple rereads.
And a great connection to the perennial success of the All Blacks- their focus on the challenge… and acknowledging time is too brief…. and their themes:
Whanau (Maori term for extended family ❤️
Whakapapa (interdependence on our past present & future)
And how about this quote from Polanyi: an unbridled lucidity can destroy our understanding of complex matters
Also Polanyi: it is not by looking at things but by dwelling in them that we understand their joint meaning.
Leonardo: my subjects require experience rather than the words of others (which is why as I read Isaacsons bio on da Vinci it was as if within his paintings he painted the bones and muscles et all before the final layer)
Start with practice, journey to theory.
Which is why Fulham recreates Isaacsons list of factors to learn from Leo and are pure nuance:
Be curious, relentlessly curious
See knowledge for its own sake
Retain a childlike sense of wonder
Start with details
See things unseen
Go down rabbit holes
Let the perfect be the enemy of the good
Let your reach exceed your grasp
Create for yourself not for patrons
Take notes (on paper)
Be open to mystery
(Me: what a curriculum!!)
Leo saw three classes of people:
Those who see
Those who see when they are shown
Those who do not see.
Nuanced leaders do not wake up one day saying “I can see!” …..
Over time leaders become more nuanced.
Even as a callback to Gladwell – a note that his 10,000 hour rule is not just about the quantity of hours but quality of purposeful practice:
1. Well defined goals
3. Involves feedback
4. Requires getting out of ones comfort zone
And wow. As I had many takeways from Isaacsons book on da Vinci, especially focusing on the journey over the finished projects (and deadlines) I am happy that Fullan linked his work on being a nuanced leader to the teachings from 500 years ago. It is a fabulous time to be an educator – change is needed…change is here… so much more still to do!!
And as to my first wonder – does Nuance (with a myriad of book clubs popping up everywhere) live up to the hype? I gotta say this is inspired writing. Pushed my thinking. Made me re-read and re-read. Made me make connections. Got my daughter (g9) agreeing that change is needed and that she wants to love learning at school…maybe we can get there! I have always liked Fullans writing, but wow. This is his best (so far…)