The Yellow Brick Road: Path of Teacher-led Reform

In teacher-led education reform, big hairy audacious goals need the support of a collaborative team. Team members contribute time, resources, talent and share in the tasks that otherwise would be an impossible lift for one person. But who should be on the team? and Why?  One theory suggests that every good team must have Dorothy, Scarecrow, Tin Man and Lion. Why?

The decades-old story of Dorothy and her journey along the yellow brick road to the Emerald City presents many implications for teacher-led education reform today. And, when we view the beloved characters through the lens of the Personality Compass, the potential for meaningful change in education seems… limitless.

It is evident in the story as well as in reform efforts, that there is a best way, to bring about meaningful and sustainable change. However, the lure of a brighter future can often blind us to the fact that the path is fraught with distractions, opposition, and downright career peril. So though the road toward change may be clear and identifiable, the journey will not be easy. Which is why it is very important to consider well, our traveling companions, those stakeholders who share our vision, but bring a variety of resources, and offer distinct approaches to the work.

Dorothy and her motley crew were as diverse as any team could be- a girl, a lion, a scare crow and a tin man! They had no shared history and were unknown to each other prior to the journey. Their backgrounds, approaches, and perspective were all different too. Yet, they banded together, identified a shared goal, dealt with opposition forces, escaped imprisonment, and reached their ultimate goal–to see the Wizard, who lived in the Emerald City of OZ.

It would seem then that the experiences of our friends in the story could serve as a model for building an effective collaborative team, an extremely important step in teacher-led reforms. Interestingly, Dorothy’s team of OZ trackers, closely resembles the Turner-Greco Personality Compass points. So let’s review the characters and see how they align with the descriptions of the four personality compass pointsNorth, South, East, and West.

Compass Points and OZ Trackers:

  • North personalities are confident, driven, determined, goal-centered, task oriented, natural born leaders. Dorothy is a true North. Don’t be fooled by her soft persona; it cloaks the mind of a chess Grandmaster with nerves banded in steel. Soon after flattening a potential enemy, she confidently sets her course for OZ, with no more direction than “follow the yellow brick road.” On her journey she rescues a scarecrow, oils a tin man and is not above slapping the king of the forest.
  • South personalities are polar opposites of Norths. They are non-confrontational, deliberate, process-centered, helpful, sensitive, natural team players. Which explains why in their initial encounter Dorothy slapped Lion on the old schnoz. However, his tearful outbursts shows that his ego and sensibilities suffered a greater bruising.
  • East personalities are analytical, organized, focused, quality-centered, industrious, natural planners. In the story, the Tin Man focused on the quality of his work, rusted mid chop, with axe in hand. After much needed oiling, we note he is perfectly attired for the task. His tin frame held together with rivets, provides the power needed to fell trees for lumber.
  • West personalities are creative, flexible, spontaneous, idea centered, visionary, natural risk takers. The Scare Crow, free of his bonds and pesky crows, emerges from the corn field  limber-legged and eager to join Dorothy in her quest. Even without the coveted brain, his creative juices flow freely. He also serves as Dorothy’s first recruit and the one who loses lots of straw in defending her ideas.

Understanding our own personality traits and the traits of potential team members is important to the work of teacher-led education reform. The transformative ideas we’ve incubated will go no further than the document stored in our computer, without collaborators who represent all four compass points.  I appreciate that the personality compass is not the only matter for consideration in order to achieve the outcomes we seek. We know that a personality-balanced team needs vision and actionable steps, too.

But there is a case to be made for the idea that teacher-led reform include personality driven teams. Think about it.

Let’s go back to the story.

The famous trip to OZ would have been very different if everyone was competitive, task-oriented, and assertive like Dorothy (a North). They could reach the destination (provided they did not kill each other along the way) but there would be no joy in that journey, or team building for that matter.  Conversely, if they were all non-confrontational, sensitive, helpful Lions (a South) togetherness and harmony would make the Poppy Field a welcomed staff retreat to explore thoughts and feelings about moving on to Oz.

I just ask that we seriously consider the possibilities that leveraging this idea can bring to the realization of our ideas, especially for those of us who teach in politically polarized communities. Wisdom dictates that we at least consider not going it alone. But in that consideration, we must avoid the trap of recruiting team members like we do our socks–matching and alike. Instead, strategically select team members with diverse perspectives, unique approaches and with resources and talents we don’t possess.

The yellow brick road beacons all of us who are in the midst of fervently planning and implementing ways to improve education. But let’s not forget that the path is filled with distractions, and opposition. The journey along the yellow brick road proved successful for Dorothy, Scare Crow, Tin Man, and the Lion, even though it was fraught with dangers. I believe that the peril and opposition only served to strengthen their resolve and deepen their respect for each other.

Like Dorothy, we too can build an effective collaborative team.

And we won’t need a wizard or three clicks of our ruby-red heels to get it done.

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