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Automatic English For The People

Monday, February 27, 2006

Leadership, Vision, Synergy

by AJ

Ive said it many times... when it comes to education, small is beautiful. What a difference a small school makes. At my past job, I worked for a large government university. A behemoth. A dinosaur. To say the place was not open to innovation is an understatement.

Big bureaucracies have a habit of self-perpetuating themselves. They are typically intolerant of criticism, disagreement, and dissent. They dont tolerate non-conformity. In my opinion, trying to change such an institution is a waste of time... a pointless exercise in frustration. Teachers who hope to be original and creative should look elsewhere for employment.

The point hit home today as I talked to the director of my current school. He's energetic. He's excited about improving the school. He is open to innovation. Last week I sent him an email full of suggestions... random ideas I had for improving things. We discussed them at length today... and basically he said, "go for it"! Its hard to underestimate the power of this kind of leadership. The bureaucracy is a lumbering beast.. weighed down by "policy"... and by a more general fear of change.

But a small school with dynamic leadership can evolve quickly. Ours is such a school. Started just one year ago... its enrollment has grown rapidly. Students are flocking to the school. We're adding afternoon and night classes. We're instituting social programs. This can happen because our school does not rely on one person for ideas. As large as TU was... nothing new could happen without approval from the few folks at the top.

Our school, by contrast, is evolving at lightning speed. Each teacher tries new things. We're also continually soliciting involvement from students. Suggestions pour in, and we try many of them. The student body is not a passive & obedient group.. they are active participants.. shaping the school, its curriculum, its programs.

When administrators unleash their teachers.. and teachers unleash their students.. a tremendous synergy occurs. Suddenly EVERYONE is contributing. Teachers inspire the students.. and students inspire the teachers. Energy builds. Enthusiasm grows. Innovations accelerate.

For you practical hard-nosed business types... any idea how this impacts the bottom line? Can you imagine the effect on recruitment when students become active participants in program development? Can you imagine the kind of word of mouth this generates? Our school does no advertising... its phenomenal growth spurred only through referral. We are successfully competing against long-established schools with HUGE marketing budgets.

Everyone benefits from this arrangement. The director & business folks get increasing enrollment and more income. Teachers are freed to innovate and enjoy their jobs. Students shape their own education.. and have a more powerful (and more effective) learning experience.

Break the bureaucracy. Burn the policy manuals. Fire the paper pushers. Axe the autocrats. Success will follow.

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