The end of the middle manager?

Lynda Gratton writing in the Harvard Business Review believes that the impact of technology, the growth of virtual teams and changing attitudes will mean the end of middle mangers. If technology is having this kind of impact on business – what effect will it have on the way we staff schools?

Gratton sees that”technology itself has become the great general manager. It can monitor performance closely, provide instant feedback, even create reports and presentations.  Moreover, skilled teams are becoming increasingly self-managed.  What they [Gen Y workers] do value is mentoring and coaching from someone they respect.”

As these traditional hierarchical structures disappear from our workplaces, our education systems will be obliged to look at new ways of staffing schools in the 21st century.

Despite the technological advances, an industrial mindset still dominates the way schools operate and how teachers should behave. There are industrial awards and classifications, close supervision and progress reports.

This is how adults have worked in an industrial enterprise but it no longer reflects the changing nature of the world, work or how today’s students learn.  We have always had good teachers but the industrial model of schooling has made them compliant.

Marc Prensky in his latest essay on school reform believes that most teachers are ‘just trying to accomplish, often against their will and better judgment, what the old education asks and mandates of them – that is, to “cover” the curriculum and raise test scores. If we take off those handcuffs and provide a better alternative, most teachers will, I believe, be eager to implement it.”

The practice of teacher collaboration, critical reflection and ongoing professional learning is forcing us to search for new ground rules around how we employ and develop teachers as professionals.

Some of my ground rules would include:

  1. providing the right conditions and support for teachers to succeed
  2. encouraging teachers to work, learn and plan together
  3. implementing flexible teaching arrangements, timetables and uses of technology
  4. using contemporary theory and research to inform practice
  5. connecting with other learning communities, industry and government to improve student learning outcomes
  6. ensuring an integrated curriculum and eliminating the distractors from teachers’ work

It seems a simple recipe, but how we change people’s attitudes, beliefs and ultimately the system is! Cultural change takes time


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