Lacey Bons' Page

Holarchic Communities: Breaking Out of the Mold as Technology Shifts the Power in the Classroom

In the U.S., teaching remains a profession that continually changes curriculum without changing its system of delivery. The system remains a heirarchy where the power trickles down from the federal government to the states to the districts and the school boards, and then finally to those who should really hold the power: the teachers and the students. Non-educators are making the rules without truly knowing what teachers and students are facing in their classrooms every day. The practices remain outdated as teachers struggle to teach digital learners in the old ways that they were taught. Some teachers became teachers to change this traditional way of schooling, while others were captivated by the role of the all-knowing sage and wanted to duplicate that style of teaching. Either way, the world continues to change and get more complicated. With this complexity comes the huge need and responsibility to teach our students more than just facts and equations to memorize. Teachers need to be helping develop critical thinkers who can problem solve on their own and also work as a team to see that there is not just one answer or one way to solve problems. Advancing technology has created an even greater challenge and divide in education. For the first time, teachers are definitely not the all knowing and are learning from students in a more reciprocal manner and playing catch up to learn what comes naturally to the children we teach. This shift calls for a very necessary and benficial change in approaches to teaching, but a change that many teachers are resisting in response to the increasing demands and focus on testing scores. Now more than ever, teachers need to reflect on their role as teacher, stand up for their students, and create a holarchy, not a heirarchy. Teachers need to empower students and help create a community of learners that share knowledge and build learning based on personal relevance and experience.
In analyzing this current problem, George J. Posner's frame factors (2004) need to be addressed. There is definitely a temporal factor. This is a change that would take many years to implement and to see noticeable results. The other factors include political-social and economic. Will the people in power want to give up their important roles in education? Will they be willing to support changes at the college level for new teachers in training? Will schools train, trust, and support their teachers in this new approach? Will parents like the changes? There are so many unknowns, because there are so many factors and people involved at all levels of education.
Because this issue is embedded in all layers of our heirarchical education system, it would take change in all of the layers. I think the most important place to start would be with teachers. If teachers are going to teach using holarchic communities, we must be taught this way in our own college education and teaching program, as well. Teachers cannot truly teach what they have not experienced. The next step is restructuring our educational system to place teachers at the forefront of advocating and making professional decisions for their students and their schools. Administration would need to be empowered to support and trust their teachers, rather than threatened by test scores and school board demands. The final step would be educating parents on the changes, so they understand the reasoning and be supportive of their students' learning.

Posner, G. J. (2004). Chapter 8: Frame factors (pp. 191—215). In: Analyzing the curriculum (3rd ed.). Boston: McGraw Hill.

Supporting Teachers, Changing Our Schools
Lacey Bons
ECI 696
Our school systems are run much more like businesses than places of learning, encouraging competition and instilling fear rather than building community among teachers. In schools today, teachers are made to feel isolated, and they are competing with each other for the principal's approval, for merit pay, and for the best test scores. Instead of honoring working together and sharing knowledge, we work in an education system that creates overwhelming challenges with very little support or respect for teachers. With the current climate of teacher-proofing curriculum, mandated standards, and high stakes testing, teachers feel as though they are in a pressure cooker, acting as the mediator between their district and principals expectations, parents' demands for the best for their kids, and their students' learning. There is a drop in teacher morale and a number of teachers leaving their profession. Teachers often feel isolated and like they are not trusted and valued which, unfortunately, then trickles down to the students. Not only are our teachers afraid to question the system publicly or to question practices to help benefit their students. They are also fearful to admit when they need more support or they give up, because they feel that they will not be supported by administration, anyway. While there has been a slow shift to creating professional learning communities to support teachers and build professional knowledge and research based practice, these learning communities often become micro-managed projects of the administrators or just extra busy work with agendas that do not fit what teachers really need. In this analysis, the focus will be how to provide teachers with more support, so that they can rise above the challenges of today, provide students with the best education to compete internationally, and gain the respect and professional status that is so lacking.
To solve this problem of fear and unrest among teachers, I feel that it first takes strong leaders: a principal and experienced teachers that can build community among the teachers, provide mentoring support to all teachers, especially new teachers. In some schools, the teachers have also begun PLCs, or professional learning communities, to read current research, share ideas, and work on implementing the best practices. I think that this is a really positive place to start, especially if teachers are given the reins and the time to run them as they see most beneficial. To help support and create professional status to teachers, many areas need to be addressed including funding and hiring more resource and special education teachers, providing comprehensive and extensive teaching programs in colleges, shifting control of our curriculum to education professionals, and getting away from the high stakes testing that is stressing teachers and students out without benefiting anyone.
Some of the factors that pose challenges are our economic, social-political, and organizational systems that are already in place and driving schools today. Teachers need to take a more active role in advocating for their students publicly. As Alfie Kohn states, teachers need to stop taking a passive stance and using the excuses “This too shall pass,” “My job is to teach not to get involved in political disputes,” or “The standards and tests are here to stay; we might as well get used to them.” Teachers need to unite, need to inform parents, and model for their students what living in a democracy means. If teachers want their students to learn responsibility for their community and active participation, they need to model these skills for their students inside and outside of the classroom.

Kohn, Alfie. (2001, January). Fighting the Tests A Practical Guide to Rescuing Our Schools. Phi Delta
Kappan, Vol. 82, p. 349-357.

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