During a recent walking tour in London, our guide informed us as we neared Buckingham Palace to observe the changing of the guard that many people arrive early and stake a place next to the palace gates assuming the best view of the festivities. Our guide acknowledged that this is certainly one way to observe the changing of the guard but that it does limit seeing and understanding the surrounding activities associated with the daily event.
She encouraged and guided us to a place along a less crowded sidewalk where we could take in the entire set of activities and actually ended up closer to the band members, horse-mounted soldiers and the palace guards during their march. Correspondingly we got a greater sense of the entire transition process rather than observing one single element of the ceremonies.
This got me to thinking that we have various views of how a school functions, sometimes up close focusing on our lesson, our students and learning content other times taking in a larger view of the school’s context focusing on how a classroom activity fits into the school’s climate, engaging atmosphere and student development.
Thus one view of the changing of the guard can be described as up-close, focused and bound by time another view can be described as context focused and aligned with many activities. In schools, I believe, we need to balance these two views ensuring that when needed we focus directly on the task at hand and at other times orient our work to fit and inform the quality and character of the school.
Such a balance ensures content and context align, rather than conflict; activities have both immediate and long-term outcomes and impacts rather than one or the other; and students better understand the connection of their learning and development rather than acquiring discrete knowledge and skills.
So if you prefer the closer view of school activities consider expanding your focus to include the school’s quality and character; and if you prefer to be driven by context think about how individual activities are supported by and contribute to the type of school climate most effective for all education stakeholders.
The bottom line is for tourists they get a one-time view of the changing of the guard and need to make a viewing choice. While we who function in schools have daily and long-term opportunities to take closer or expansive views of our efforts and their consequences and can establish a more balanced focus.