25 May 2006

Stepford Teachers in the Open Space

I really like working with elementary teachers. I know I've talked about that here before, but I continue to be greatly impressed with the thoughtfulness and purposeful way they approach their craft.

Of course, it could also be that I have the "cream of the crop" working on developing and strengthening our elementary science program. Are there such things as "Stepford Teachers"? Really, I don't care, either way---it's just refreshing and energizing to be with them.

Today was the second day of our k-5 alignment work. I have a little anxiety over the plans we've made---not because they are bad, but because it means selling a whole lotta change to people. I know I've got excellent sales staff on hand with this group. I also know that not many people are interested in change and that most teachers are already overwhelmed. We're going to have to use a little bit of snake oil with this one. In addition to my heartburn, I also have a lot of excitement over this plan. It really seems to be the right thing for kids. It's hard to argue with that.

The Boss Lady sent out some information recently on "Open Space Meetings." I have had very little time or focus recently to read further about the topic. The principles did catch my eye:
  • Whoever comes are the right people.
  • Whatever happens is the only thing that could happen.
  • Whenever it starts is the right time.
  • When it's over, it's over.

I invited hundreds of elementary teachers. The five who came are the right five for this task. The direction we're headed seems to be the best choice for things that could happen. Timing is still unresolved. I will say that they started talking and planning before I'd even finished setting up and "officially" beginning facilitation---they aren't into breaks or lunch. They don't know what "over" means at this point. I didn't start out this process with an "Open Space" philosophy, but it seems to fit the way things are going. So, I'll take a Zantac and just go with the flow. Stepford doesn't seem like such a bad place to be.


HappyChyck said...

The Open Space Technology is so cool! I've attended sessions that used this...so amazing. Good for you for going with the flow.

Anonymous said...

Liz here from I Speak of Dreams. GAK! Those principles sound like a left over from "consensus decisionmaking" in the early 70s. While I can see a place fro Open Space Technology in a brain-storming framework, I can also see it being a gigantic waste of time. Agendas are good, on the whole.

Anonymous said...

These four principles could also apply to relationships, dinner parties or a grand opening at the new Piggly Wiggly.

Let's hope the "Open Space" is not between the Boss Lady's ears.

The Science Goddess said...

I'm laughing. The principles are pretty darned "touchy-feely."

Anyone up for watching Rosie Greer sing "It's all right to cry" from "Free to Be You and Me"? Is my age showing?!

Perhaps they're just fancy ways of reminding people to have some patience with the process. Or, as I prefer from The Cigarette Girl (book): "Start from hope...live dangerously."

Laura(southernxyl) said...

The article does talk about setting agendas.

I've been to very productive meetings that didn't start out "open" but got that way because the leader stepped back and let the people who cared most about issues take charge. One of those people is frequently me, so maybe that's why I think we got so much done.