My response to "Nobody Wants to Be Fixed" by George Couros

So, today, @gcouros posted a blog called, “Nobody Wants to Be Fixed.” George is a great mind, and an inspiring presenter, but as I have posted an entire series called How to Fix Education, it raised my eyebrow. And, whatsmore, forced me to stare and think about the perspective of “fix.”

Let’s go through his post. He starts with a tweet.

I made it through the first seven words and was about to execute an Olympic caliber eye roll until I read the next fifteen. If we approach students the same way we approach school improvement, we would quickly understand the error of our ways. Is it best practice to explain everything that is wrong with students and never mention their strengths? No. It’s mean. Then why do that with a school?

The problem is I complain about school all the time. Well, I complain about the education system. My school is pretty awesome. But, I do. I talk about all of the things that are wrong with school. Testing, instruction, professional development, schedules… food. But what about the strengths of schools?

He goes on, “It is not to say that there aren’t problems in education, and I love this Dylan Wiliam quote and have tried to shift my mindset toward it.”

What a thought! I have written and presented about school culture and I talk about shared belief, values, behaviors and characteristics, but it never occurred to me that if you want to build your culture help teachers believe they can improve just because they want to get better. A culture of better. I wish that Google Docs had an emoji for mind bomb. It would do great right here.

He says, “By looking for, and starting with a culture that builds on strengths and what we do right, you are more likely to have a group of people that feel valued.”

Isn’t that what you want as a principal? Isn’t that want we want as a teacher? To value and be valued?

He goes on to start to talk about how and when to approach change.

I’m often asked if I was to go back into a school as a principal, what would I change first. My answer is “nothing.” The first thing I would do now is to create a spreadsheet with every single staff member’s name. To the right of that column I would write the word “Strength.” Until I can identify the strength in every person in that building, nothing changes. Not only do I have to identify it, but the people I am serving would have to know that I know it. Then we can move forward and try some new ideas striving toward better opportunities for our students. If I change things without knowing and showing the value of the people I serve, they feel like they are trying to be “fixed” and nobody wants to feel that way. If people know they are valued, then it feels like we are trying to help them get better and grow.

I see principals with agendas. I see them come into a school completely unaware of culture, and destroy it. I see principals who are more likely to know a teacher's favorite sports team than their strengths or passions. And I’ve watched principals drive out their best people completely unaware of why it was happening.

George, I’m interpreting, posits that improvement is not possible until you know the strengths of the people in your building.

I don’t ascribe to the power of positivity. I don’t care about glass half empty, glass half full, love yourself, cleanse your aura nonsense. I believe in honesty and straightforwardness. I don’t think we always need to think positively. I think we need to be honest with each other, and I think we need to value each other. I know how I respond to a principal who values me. I know how I respond to a principal who knows my strengths. I know how I respond when I’m apart of a culture that is constantly trying to get better.

George ends his post by saying, “Feeling valued doesn’t mean we don’t have flaws and weaknesses; it is just that we do not start from that point.”

So, instead of fixing education maybe I’ll start making it better.

Please be clear that all references to George Couros’ blog can be found here, and I am in no way claiming his work as mine. His work just helped me work through some new ideas, and I wanted to share.

Your thoughts are welcomed and encouraged,

Dane Barner


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