In the schools I’ve visited, I’ve heard several administrators say that if the children are happy, the parents are happy. If the parents are happy, the teachers are happy. If the teachers are happy, the administrators are happy. Put them all together and it creates an environment conducive to learning and school success.
In mathematical terms, that could translate to:
Happy students + happy parents + happy teachers + happy administrators = happy school
By applying the distributive principle, the result is:
Happy (students + parents + teachers + administrators = school)
Therefore, you can replace “happy” with any adjective you desire, and you can see what the result is.
Rather than continuing to play the blame game by isolating only one issue and “fixing it” will cause everything else to fall into place, schools need to realize that “everything” needs to be addressed simultaneously to achieve success. It’s known as “Systems Thinking.” The problem is that our schools don’t teach the concept, and don’t live by it either.
Athletes know the benefits of systems thinking. In order to be at peak performance, they must not only practice to hone their physical skills, but eat properly, exercise regularly, sleep well and continuously learn about their chosen sport and their role within it. Let just one of those things slide and the overarching principle of “outstanding performance” slides to “good” to “acceptable” to “average” to “mediocre” to “poor.”
So, let’s approach the equation from a different angle. Let’s create a new adjective for each of the stakeholders in the equation, and let’s add one more stakeholder group too, since sooner or later, even public schools are going to need to realize that they are non-profit entities, and can’t rely on an aging tax base (or worse, people who pay no taxes at all yet reap the benefits of public programs) to fund their activities.
Consider this equation:
Excited students + Empowered parents + Energized teachers + Informed Administrators + Engaged donors = Vibrant school
Now each group has a goal, rather than simply “happy,” since happiness is fleeting. What can make you happy one day can make you terribly frustrated the next. Newly married couples realize this, since what she thought was “cute” about him when they first met now constantly annoys her.
We know “what” we want to achieve (the new adjective), and we know “why” we want to achieve it (the new “sum” on the other side of the equal sign). Now we can work on the “how” to make the “what” happen.
But there’s still an important consideration everyone seems to overlook. With a nod to Roger Daltrey, Pete Townshend, and the late John Entwistle and Keith Moon, it’s the “who.” More about that next week.