"Every child can succeed if we turn around our schools through deep change" - Eugene Daniels

Today Eugene Daniels, gave a powerful talk at our SMT forum about the deep change we need if we want to turn schools around.

Eugene Daniels's message is clear: Let's teach beyond teaching to targets. Let's teach to each child's dream".  If children do not succeed, adults have to take responsibility for the children's failure. This is a 360 degree turn, flipping traditional thinking that blames the child for not achieving.

Eugene Daniels having a meaningful conversation with our school leadership teams

You must experience Eugene Daniels to benefit from his evidence-based talk about deep change. Besides drawing on literature, Eugene's shared how he is implementing the model of deep change and he gave us a few practical tips on how schools can deepen their own transformation.

 These are a few of the insights that I gleaned from the talk.

We must learn to do things differently.

  • We should move away from doing more of the same. If we don't let ALL the learners succeed, we are NOT doing things differently.
  • The latest research shows that our brains are largely emotionally wired. In fact, we are 98% emotional and 2% rational. This means that we need to respond by providing care and support to help children rather than fixating on developing more rules and regulations.
  • We need to stop shifting blame to others. Rather, we should coach others to show how to provide care and support for children. 
  • You need to believe that you are the only person who can make a difference in a child's life. This is what servant leadership is all about. If you don't believe this, the child is already doomed.
  • We need to acknowledge that change is tough. We are wired to resist change and therefore we require a commitment to do things differently. We should push back consistently to bring about deep change in the way we think about learning and the way children learn.
A few of our SMT delegates with Eugene Daniels

The cumulative odds against poor children.

  • We were reminded that there is a massive difference between the brains of a normal three year old and a three year old who has been neglected. When children from deprived communities start school, these children already have a three year backlog. 

  • If these children are taught by say, two bad teachers during their primary school years, these children's academic backlog increases by at least another two years. The combined mix of poverty,  poor teaching and negative beliefs about children is toxic. 

  • This realization is startling. Every single person - principals, teachers, district officials - should understand the permanent damage of this toxic mix.  It is alarming that children become victims of not only the broader system, but via the reinforcement of these belief systems and actions at the various sub-systems at our schools and at our districts.

Andre Lamprecht, Lameez Rabbaney, William Page, Shaun Simpson and Armien Samodien look energized after the session.

The principles of successful school turnaround strategy.

These principles should be understood and internalized by all of us who are committed to helping schools become successful.

  • We need to believe that All learners are born to be successful.
  • We need to believe that the academic ability of learners is the same whether they come from a poor or a wealthy background.
  • Adults are the biggest hurdles. Adults must change. Adults must think and act to help the child realize his or her dream.
  • We need to move away from the 'blame and shame" thinking. We need to stop acting like victims and take responsibility to bring about deep change.
  • We need to restructure the education models that we have. 

A few other thoughts

I wish that all the teachers at the schools I serve could hear Eugene talking about what authentic, personalised learning and teaching means.  Even this blog post does not do justice to the rich experience of hearing how Eugene and their team are helping to bring about Deep Change in two  Education Districts in Limpopo Province.

Becoming servant leaders is a difficult, long journey because we are required to shift our thinking dramatically. We need to believe in the capacity of all human beings, who with the right care and support, will excel. This is tough, especially if we ourselves are still locked in the victim mentality and we believe that real change can happen without deep emotional commitment.

It is these kinds of deep conversations that our school heads and their staffs should participate in. It is these kinds of communities of practice that we ignore to our peril. Reading literature is necessary, but we need to hear and see models of deep transformation to show us the possibilities. 

We need to create a balance between providing people with the tools and helping people to transform their thinking about WHY we are leading schools, why we are teaching children and why we are providing education support.

Kay, Terence, Tasneem, Michele and Gerry after the inspiring talk by Eugene.

I am sure Eugene will gladly share his message of hope and the  transformative power of deep change  if you invite him. 

Be bold. Be prepared to commit to think differently and act differently at schools so that ALL learners can be successful.

Thanks, Eugene.  You are an inspiration!

Lavinia Davis thanks Eugene for the presentation. Rodney Theys looks on.

What do you think about the Deep Change revolution?


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