Monday, July 6, 2015

Does the 'outside expert' always know best?

We've all heard the story of the child who is told over and over again by their father/mother how to do something. The child simply disregards the suggestion because the child can't imagine the father/mother knowing best.

Then, an outsider (a coach, teacher, friend of the family), responds with the same advice and/or suggestion, and the child's eyes light up in amazement as if this suggestion has never before been heard.

This story has repeated itself countless times in our daily lives.

For educators, this type of story can be all too common...

It's not uncommon for schools and districts to bring in outside 'experts' to talk about a particular topic. Often times this topic is something that's been brewing in the school or district for some time. And in an effort to sustain the momentum an outside expert is called upon to assist.

The typical response of the audience is amazement and awe. Participants are glued to every word that falls out of the expert's mouth and for the days and months to follow people start their statements with, 'John/Jill the Expert said...'

This of course isn't always the case, but I'd say more often than not this is the reality in education.

These experts from far distant lands who appear in the middle of the night and have all the right things to say in just the right ways are idolized and their words carry the needed weight to take the initiative to the next level.


What's most interesting about this outside expert is they may or may not be any more knowledgeable or experienced than some of those within the school or district.

Like anything, this isn't always the case, but there are many instances where there are very qualified and knowledge educators within an education system who have been saying and/or advocating for what the expert said for quite some time.

However, their words have unfortunately been falling on deaf ears for whatever reason...

They've been tuned out because everyone already knows how they feel or what they are going to say... it's nothing new and everyone has heard it all before.

This can be quite demoralizing for any individual and naturally will cause someone to question their worth and value in the eyes of others.

So, how often do we have passionate AND extremely knowledgeable educators within our ranks who just can't seem to get any traction with their own colleagues?

How often do father and mother know best?

What can be done about this scenario that continues to play itself out in schools and districts around the world? Should anything be done?

Full disclosure... I've benefited personally from being the outside expert and I would also say there are absolutely times when bringing someone in from the outside is a great strategy to move an initiative forward.

So, what do you think?