ARE YOU A SUPER CHICKEN? There was a study a long time ago, trying to understand how people work and achieve. The studied chickens. They put together two groups: One group was just your regular gathering of chickens and the other were Super Chickens - a collection of chickens who were all the most productive. They then followed these chickens over six generations to see what would happen. The regular chickens were not only more healthy - plump, full feathers, but also more productive. (Productivity was measured in egg production btw). Meanwhile, all but three of the Super Chicken group were dead.
I know what you're thinking -- "Oh, I've worked for that Super Chicken company! Or I went to a Super Chicken school!" This is an easily understandable and relatable scientific study. No one has to explain that the Super Chickens are so driven and determined that they peck one another to death, and actually destroy productivity, rather than increasing it.
But what I think is even more interesting are some of the other findings with the Super Chicken study. There was a recognition that in many industries where you see Super Stars or Super Chickens front and center, it is still imperative that a collective and social connectedness occur. For example, in acting directors do not search for a Super Star Quality, but rather and actor who brings something to the scene - an actor who can GIVE because what we see on film and tv is really something that is happening between two people. There is a connectedness that has to happen for us to believe a scene. It is true of musicians, too. The people who have longevity are those who determine to bring about the best in every one around them - because that is how you find it in yourself. I can easily connect this to The Husband, who is a rock star in his own right, but SUPER low-key. He is more interested in bringing together people who are tallented and can create the right sound - he doesn't need to be in the center for that to occur. I suppose it is the idea that the Art supersedes the Artist.
We stress collaboration at our school. Our students work in groups in math and reading, and I know it is a foreign idea for some who are used to the old model of raising your hand and being the TOP of YOUR CLASS. However, that model also promotes the idea that the top 10% were be nurished, supported and fed, leaving 90% to flounder. Living in the classroom with this collaborative model in place, I can see first hand how students encourage and bring out the best in each other. They push each other to participate and respond. They also learn the skills necessary to work with all different types of personalities. How do you include someone who is a selective mute? How do you encourage those who have a short temper or are differently abled? How do you learn to allow others to respond, when you are confident and bold in your own responses? These are not skills that can be taught any other way, than be using them.
Our school also allows every single student to participate in the "Gifted Program". We threw a wide net out - exposing every single student, including those designated "Special Ed" to the programs that are normally set apart for the "Gifted". The result has been a complete expansion. I have students who love to learn computer programing who can barely add and subtract. I have students who have a strong interest, talent and ability in an area they might never have been exposed to, if it weren't for our school's basic belief that every child should have every chance.
It isn't just that our school has implemented these Support Every Chicken programs that make my work so pleasurable, but more than that - as the study discovered - being a united and connected group that understands the meaning and importance of their work, drives success. We are a group of people with some pretty different individuals but collectively, we understand that our work has deep and profound meaning. We work together driven by the idea that what we do matters, and that together we can impact our community. We are not driven with hopes of the highest state test scores in the state (although if that were a byproduct, we'd be thrilled for that too), but rather, focus on the larger issue - how can we ensure that our students develop the skills necessary to successfully navigate their future? How can we empower our students to achieve the dreams in front of them? This pushes us, drives to collaboratively develop new ways to help our students gain these skills, and makes it easier for us to push ourselves up and out of bed in the morning.
We are nearing Winter Break, a time to relax, and celebrate, but I guarantee you that my co-workers and I will be spending part of that time, regrouping and rethinking so that we can rise to what comes next. We are driven, not to be Super Stars and Super Chickens, but to build a world where every single student has access, skills and means experience success now and in their future.
Let's go team!