Fostering Unity That Values Learning
Discontent certainly fuels the desire for change. However, it is the substance of the discontent and the authenticity of the individual that dictates the commitment to strive for progress. Over the course of this blogging endeavor we have posted snippets of thought on social media as a means to contribute to the pondering necessary to facilitate shifts. In one of our first posts we suggested nothing changes if nothing changes. This simple statement has great meaning to us as it is the sentiment that reflects the stagnation of our current system of public education and the impetus for S.A.G.E.
As professional educators striving to bring a progressive vision to life within the constructs of an elementary public school setting, we have become accustomed to the predictable response of being told “no” to the ideas that will place our learners at the forefront of their endeavors. It is this place of discontentment that emboldens us to advocate for all learners and contribute to the transformation of future educational systems. Growth cannot be fostered if those at the helm never see beyond traditional practices of the past. An unwillingness to say “yes” to the true movers within education, only closes the door to the countless opportunities we believe all learners should have equitable access to.
Keeping Stagnation Strong
As has become common place in our system, we were recently called to a meeting focused on addressing surface level issues that intentionally ignored the systematic deficiencies and lack of professionalism across the hierarchical system. In these gatherings referred to as “professional development,” cognitive dissonance was on full display. Anyone not familiar with the inner workings of public education would be shocked at the dialogue that took place within this twenty-five minute session grounded in division and compliance. Rather than engaging in authentic conversations about cultivating well-balanced learning environments, the curriculum driven mandates and complaints of student deficits overtook the session. Subsequently, wasting the time of true professionals by denying them the needed time to develop and organize with purpose and meaning. Once again, this repeated cycle of excluding “the learner” from the process was evident as the us vs. them mentality of the hierarchical system took center-stage.
While we can recognize the impact the pandemic has had on the system, we simply cannot use it as a way to excuse years of negligence, incompetence, and self-serving decisions that have created the gaps we experience today. As we have stated in previous posts, this unfortunate period in history has only highlighted the entrenched inconsistencies that have plagued the institution. Yet, here we are having the same conversations from twenty years ago, with a built in mechanism to excuse away systematic flaws. Within the bureaucracy of public education, enriching learning opportunities that meet the individualized academic, social, and emotional needs is secondary to contractual, systematic and divisive identities. Sadly, these meetings continue to bring us back to the root of why nothing seems to change. Is there a point where the learner becomes the center of a system that embraces professional discretion while demanding excellence from its workforce?
A Thought About Breaking Cynicism
Theoretical constructs aside, organizational behavior is simply about individuals and their influence within the social dynamic. While we do not seek to minimize the valuable insight offered through research, organizations thrive when the individuals that comprise a workforce feel as if their efforts serve a purpose that is appreciated. Whether in the learning environments we facilitate, or aspirational ventures, it has been our experience that the emphasis placed on cultivating relationships dictates the measure of organizational success — not edicts and arbitrary decisions from leadership or complaints from a complacent workforce.
In 1924, the seminal Hawthorne Studies demonstrated that a constant in organizational behavior is the innate desire of individuals to feel as if they are valued members of the organization — not simply cogs in a wheel. To that end, when employee actions are acknowledged as serving a purpose essential to fostering success their outlook shifts, and commitment to the organization increases (Cameron, 2008). This can be viewed through the lens of elementary education where a student’s perspective of purpose and value fosters the intrinsic motivation that produces positive outcomes (Lepper et al., 2005). From our experience, such moments promote a culture that embraces the challenge of cultivating understanding. In short, although sectors evolve and change, the social functions capped by individual experiences and emotions will always be the basis for paradigms that create organizational growth or stagnation.
Our attempts to uncover the underlying themes of organizational inconsistencies has merely reinforced our view that authentic communicative practices are essential to ensure each stakeholder is pulling in a common direction. Communication that harnesses the diversity of individuals is a component that ensures the effective implementation of a pedagogical approach. Investing time in an open and fluid form of communication is paramount to creating the space in which hope, optimism, and resilience become the foundation that fosters productivity (Youssef & Luthans, 2007). With a sincere openness to alternative perspectives, organizational leaders must be cognizant of the intricacies within their organizational culture. Moreover, a workforce must be comprised of authentic open-minded individuals not anchored by entrenched self-serving views. These statements are a point of true rumination for all individuals striving to guide positive organizational behavior.
An Authentic Lens
Adaptability is essential in generating the interpersonal influence, social astuteness, sincerity, and networking ability of politically skilled individuals (Lepper et al., 2005). Through an authentic lens, these skills are used to foster trust as leaders show vulnerability and humbleness as they navigate and shift the organizational culture. This level of commitment creates avenues of proactive communication that can ameliorate organizational deviance and avert deleterious ethical dilemmas.
To drive change in a manner that creates a broad vision, leaders must recognize the processes in which organizational knowledge is developed, harnessed, and utilized for deeper understanding. Leveraging this knowledge through openness to alternative perspectives would generate implementation models more aligned with organizational vision and mission. Cultivating positive organizational behavior is an ongoing process that evolves as leaders consistently revisit and analyze social dynamics. In doing so, organizational alignment creates the space critical to defining aspirational shifts. When leaders contribute to building a culture that fosters awareness, empathy, and deep listening transformational change becomes possible.
We have found that seeking to develop theoretical constructs within the study of organizational behavior comes from a desire to understand how organizations inspire an intrinsically motivated workforce. To that end, many studies have concluded that recognition is the most effective and efficient form of motivation. We would contend that this extrinsic form of motivation helps to facilitate the intrinsic motivation that organizations rely upon for innovative thought. Moreover, it creates the space for a culture that engages in consistent cycles of learning that facilitate the elements of sustainability. Focusing upon individual relationships assists in cultivating a common sense of purpose while building the group identity that Earley and Mosakowski (2000) suggest enhance team effectiveness.
While there are a number of broad areas that can be dissected when viewing organizational behavior, We would suggest that Ludwig’s (2020) illustration of the link between humanism and professionalism is representative of the attributes that drive effectiveness. For it is in these domains that the vulnerability and empathetic nature necessary for the individual growth that enhances organizational culture resides.
Although settings may evolve, the character of the individuals that comprise an environment will dictate the effectiveness of an initiative. Adaptability and authenticity derived from an introspective approach assist in defining the professionalism needed to meet challenges while fostering growth. Regardless of proximity, a lack of professionalism amongst a team will limit the potential of any organizational plan. Moreover, a dismissive nature to fundamental expectations invariably has a deleterious impact on those who subscribe to the assertion that professionalism promotes a vocation by maintaining its standards (Krinn, 2011). Although there are those who will argue the subjectiveness of the term professionalism, we would contend its basic attributes of trust and a commitment beyond self are not debatable. As such, public education has much to engage in order to effectively address the ingrained systems of belief that have fostered cynicism and limited effectiveness. “Professional Development” is merely a moniker if we fail to address the root issues and pull in the same direction.
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