The world is changing and so is education. In our schools, we look for the best possible ways to give talent space. How do we manage to support the student optimally in his development? What does that mean for teachers who deal with students on a daily basis? And above all: what does that demand of school leaders?
Many schools are looking for appropriate answers to these questions. For example, they increasingly organize education around the personal needs and ambitions of students and the professional development is focused on ‘doing justice to diversity’. However, successful change requires more: school leaders with a vision and the skills to connect.
In this article we describe our vision and offer school leaders concrete tools for a successful approach.
The mission of the school
In every school’s vision document, ‘the student as the focus’ forms the core mentality. And rightly so, because the school’s task is to prepare students for participation in further education and society. A school prepares them for further education by equipping them with knowledge and skills and for participation in society through teaching the students self-knowledge and self-confidence, and shaping those into values and norms.
Schools develop their own methods of achieving this twofold assignment. In addition to paying attention to curricula and the ‘hard’ returns, schools are increasingly recognizing the individual student with his own learning style and needs. This is a reason that many schools are now choosing for personalized learning. However, for many schools this requires a change in thinking: in addition to control and mastery, creativity and flexibility is also necessary. Schools are struggling to find a new balance.
Each student has unique qualities. Each student is unique, with his own set of qualities. ’Qualities’ refers to, for example, perseverance, decisiveness, caring, empathy, flexibility, logical reasoning, creativity, and many others. Each child is born with natural qualities which give the child his uniqueness and play an important role in his relationships with others; in the family, at school and beyond. Together, a child’s qualities form his instrument, as it were. The better he gets to know and play his instrument, the more powerful and beautiful the sound.
The school is one of the main places where a student can practice this. He/she learns to explore and test his qualities and learns to see the pitfalls of these qualities.
At least in theory. Despite great efforts, in practice it does not always work. Qualities that match expectations are praised, while other qualities are not always noticed, and some are even penalized. What could be an asset is then approached as a burden. Our vision is to change that, with the following tools.
Students have a desire to be seen. Some succeed in getting this, but some struggle to get proper attention. Those who feel inadequately understood, often show ‘difficult behavior’. Because this behavior is given labels and treatment plans, the implication is that the cause of the problem lies with the student. This is unjustified because the inadequacy lies not only with the student, but just as much with the environment that is unable to see the quality that sparkles through the ‘difficult behavior’. This often happens when schools prioritize achieving certain results in place of focusing on the growth and development of their students.
The question, ‘What does this student have to do to learn to adapt?’ should be replaced by: “What do we, as a school, have to do to learn to understand this student’s abilities and to guide him in such a way that he learns to walk his own path?’ Of course, this approach is not only fruitful for students with ‘difficult behavior’. The so-called easy, problem-free student also greatly benefits from becoming more aware of his personal qualities with their pitfalls, challenges and allergies. He will benefit from this insight as a student at a young age throughout the rest of his life.
The student and his environment
At school students want to discover the world around them, but above all they want to learn to recognize and develop their own potential. They want to be seen and acknowledged by teachers, classmates and parents.
. They want their teachers to appreciate them for their qualities. This is not always easy for teachers under pressure from the inspection, improvement plans and administrative burden.
. They want to be accepted by their classmates and create a sense of belonging. This sometimes makes it difficult for students to be authentic.
. And they want affirmation and recognition from their parents. For many parents it is a challenge to let their child find his own way.
The messages a student receives from teachers, classmates and parents strongly determine his self-image and self-confidence. This only succeeds if the environment has the willingness to recognize which qualities and talents a student naturally brings along.
The most important result of all education, is self-knowledge
How can schools create an environment that is willing to take the qualities of students as a starting point for further development? Our answer is: through an integral approach to the school (I-we-it) and working with Core Quadrants.
An integral approach: I-WE-IT
Development in a school only takes place if the work sufficiently matches the desires and convictions of individual employees (I); if employees want to work as a team on common goals (WE); and if there is sufficient clarity and structure (IT).
These three aspects have been incorporated by Daniel Ofman into a simple “viewing framework”:
‘I’ is about the personal desires & convictions of each individual, ‘we’ is about the relationships within a group and ‘it’ is about the concrete content & procedures of the work. It’s about giving attention to all three aspects in mutual coherence and finding a good balance within them. In this way, enthusiasm is created and sustainable results are achieved. In the middle it is clear to everyone what we are doing and why we are doing it this way. In the middle, it’s buzzing with energy.
. What we’re working on (it);
. What that means to us and our environment (we);
. And what it means to me (I).
An integral approach!
For a detailed explanation about Core Quadrants, read this article on medium! Or watch this 5 minute video:
A student blossoms when he comes into contact with his own, individual qualities, and starts to trust and learn to use them.
The Core Quality is not your name or your job title; it is much more than that. It’s not about what profession you’re in, or what family you belong to, or where you live, either. They are more basic characteristics that define us as individuals..
So it’s much more profound than that…
Core quadrants can reveal people’s core qualities, pitfalls, challenges and allergies in an orderly manner. Examples of this are:
Core Quadrants offer the opportunity to fulfil the school’s social mission. When a student has a good picture of his Core Quadrants, he gets a better understanding of why he is who he is and behaves the way he behaves.
He is more aware of his natural qualities and can use them productively. Moreover, he can deal more easily with criticism and irritation, especially when he also learns to better understand and appreciate the qualities, pitfalls, challenges and allergies of others.
Young people who are self-aware have a better chance of success than those who aren’t. They have a higher level of emotional intelligence.
Self-awareness means understanding yourself ánd others better…
Insight into core quadrants makes it possible to look differently at so-called ‘difficult behavior’, both for the student himself and for his teachers and supervisors. Teachers are no longer concerned with what is wrong with a student, but are instead focused on his underlying qualities. In other words: one can start working with what is there, instead of what is not there.
The Core Quadrant helps us to identify our Core Qualities, develop them and allow them to grow. We can also take action if we are acting out of a Core quadrant which is not our true self..
The effects on the school and the student
Our approach is simple, but the effects for the school and the students are spectacular.
Students get to know themselves and their own subtleties and develop/improve self-confidence. They get to know their classmates, their specific qualities and unique added value, develop an understanding for each other and feel increasingly connected with each other and with the teaching process. This increases motivation, fun and learning performance, as well as the willingness and ability to find solutions to questions or problems that arise.
It shows you your own center of gravity, your own Core Qualities. It shows you how to find true self-understanding and teaches you to communicate in a conscious way with others. In other words: it is all about finding a treasure trove within yourself, a treasure trove that has been there all along — waiting for you to discover it-:)
It provides schools with a common frame of reference to map qualities, a language to give words to them and the tools to make them flourish. Awareness within the school increases, as does the willingness and ability to work with/tolerate differences between pupils. It improves understanding and cooperation between school leaders, teachers, student supervisors, students and parents. An environment is created in which identifying positive qualities becomes a natural outcome. Long-lasting relationships arise.
With the help of this tool, you can improve your true self and learn about leading in a world that is constantly changing…
What do teachers have to do?
In schools, we see teachers contributing with passion, compassion and skill to the development of the student. However, this often happens ad hoc and only on an individual basis. It is therefore important that teachers commit to an integral approach and have insight into the system and positive effects of working with Core Quadrants. This not only gives them insight into their own qualities and behavior, but also into those of their colleagues, parents and students. From there, they can make the translation to the use of different forms of work and there is space for different learning styles and differences in approach. Teachers develop into becoming more effective in supervising pupils and working together with colleagues.
What do school leaders need to do?
School leaders have the best intentions for the school, the teachers and the students. Successfully fulfilling the school’s mission stands or falls with their leadership. Without their explicit choice for an integral approach with a clear structure (IT), an open approach culture (WE) and space for individual differences (I), some successes will be achieved, but this will seldom prove to be sustainable.
An integral approach requires answers to three questions:
. What does our mission require from the organization/structure? (IT)
. What does it ask of me? (I)
. And what does it ask of us? (WE)
Leadership is not only about managing what is manufacturable (IT), but also about making contact (WE) and showing what is touchable in you (I).
To answer the first question, the ‘it-world’ provides a solid basis with its clear goals, a planned approach and clarity regarding time and money.
In addition, it is up to a school leader to artfully keep the other questions alive as well. Answering these questions is a continuous and sometimes tough quest; a continuous test of commitment and dedication; a journey in which successes and failures will alternate.
Core Quality Education has expanded this model to include the whole person, including an individual’s emotional intelligence (EQ) and how it impacts your ability to reach your full potential…
When harder work, more of the same, even better procedures and even more control, no longer work, something else is needed: courage and trust. That means letting go of something without knowing what lies ahead.
This will be the challenge for the school leaders.
Having the courage to let go of something without knowing for sure that a new reality is presenting itself, can turn managers into real leaders. For IT oriented managers, this is difficult, if not almost impossible. This means that you trade certainty for trust: that you trust the universe and your experience that something new offers itself at the right time.
How wonderful would it be to create schools in which the student takes center stage? Imagine a school in which naming and developing positive qualities are self-evident?
Imagine what that could mean for students’ self-confidence, for the atmosphere in the classroom, and for the culture in the school?
We are convinced that working from the I-we-it framework and Core Quadrants is not only remarkably simple, it is also powerful and effective.
In recent years, during training and reflection sessions, we have increasingly been told: “What would my life have been like if I had known what I know now?”
And: “How nice it would be if you could bring children into contact with this, from an education perspective
This method has been tested in hundreds of workshops for students and adults
We found that this is possible through feedback from teachers and school leaders who have been brave to make a start with this. We also hear that people are interested in it
That more teachers and school leaders will have the courage to do so, that is our dream!
Daniel Ofman, Core Quality International
Albert Heemeijer — Core Quality Education &
Bob Brinkhof, Leadership and guidance for education