In Malcolm Gladwell’s new book, “David And Goliath,” he discusses the ‘principles of legitimacy.’ This resonated with me. I find that it completely applies to the work of the teacher in the classroom and to my work as a school principal and, of course, it involves three key elements.
First, those subject to obeying authority must have voice. Yes! Student voice is critical in the classroom and across the school in how the learning should take place and what the culture should be. We can listen in all sorts of ways. Social media is easy – go where they are. We have also created a ‘Hack Shack;’ a physical space where students can come and share their ideas and questions. I keep provoking students to be more ‘rock ‘n roll’ and more ‘punk.’ They need to speak up and contribute. I find it ironic to be asking them to ‘rage against the machine’ knowing that I am in charge of the machine!
Predictability is next. It goes without saying that students need to be able to predict what will happen at school. I believe that it is small-minded to think that rules alone will allow for this. All school staff need to connect with their own core values and make them abundantly clear so that students and parents will be less anxious with the changes and challenges throughout the school year and school experience. The relationship that teachers have with students is changing rapidly and continues to need to change fundamentally from that of being the font of knowledge delivering content to being a collaborative partner on the learning journey. We need to assist parents in understanding this change will is certain to challenge their own preconceptions of what school should be.
Fairness is the third component of establishing one’s legitimacy. ‘Fair’ does not mean ‘equal.’ Students should be provided equal opportunity and should all share in the consistent and equal commitment of their teachers to teach for learning and teach until it is learned. This requires providing different things to different students as needed.
Our relevance as educators needs a ‘re-boot!‘ The world has fundamentally changed and we need to respond NOW! We need to close the gap between those who are successful and those who struggle. We need to accept that the traditional way of ‘playing school’ is boring for the very people it serves. Schools can be relevant pieces of technology but they need to evolve. Students can access information and serve their own curiosity at their finger tips everywhere, anytime. If we don’t acknowledge this change, we do it at our own peril.