“Here in Singapore, we don’t compete. We help each other,” commented a Singaporean principal as we shared a table over lunch at the World EduLead Conference. She was with two other colleagues from their cluster who were preparing to excuse themselves for a promotion ceremony from assistant principals to principals. Still, they took some time to visit, talking about how they get together every month, “…to learn together, have lunch and conversation.” They shared knowing looks and laughed as they spoke of having support conversations with each other . As educators, we know the importance of the cathartic conversations with colleagues, about the moments that bring us joy, make us laugh, or that we just can’t believe.
Slowly but surely during this conversation, an understanding starting taking hold of one of the concepts my friend and colleague, John Miller, shared with me during the first couple of days of my Singaporean visit. “The teachers meet in clusters and there’s no admin there. There’s no product you have to turn in afterwards. It’s wild.” “Hmmmm,” I’ve spent several days now wondering just how this works in this country of high PISA test scores and a growing emphasis towards educating the whole student.
As we wrapped up lunch, the topic came up again. It was extraordinary to hear administrative colleagues from different schools comment, “…we don’t compete. We help each other.” As it turns out there are local, cluster, and national learning networks led by a master teacher that educators choose to join. There is an agenda, attendance is confirmed, and “the food is good.”
Networks may be subject specific, grade span focused, interest supported: art, music, game-based learning.
Freedom to learn and connect through our professional passions could be very rejuvenating. What if we, in the United States, systemically, stopped comparing schools on test scores and culturally embraced investing in the success of all schools by investing in all educators by passion and self-identified growth areas? What is we created networks for professional learning that aren’t bound by geography or a specific time frame? What could happen if flexibility in professional learning became part of the supported professional practice?”
I am ready to embrace the advice of my Singaporean colleague and lunch partner and as she commented, “…light a candle for everyone to grow.”