Author Archives: admin

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Holistic Fitness for Schools

Holistic fitness is based on the premise that balance in life can serve as a gyroscope, bringing about equilibrium, wholeness, and vitality. The gyroscope, you will recall, consists of a wheel mounted in a ring so that its axis is free to turn in any direction. When the wheel is spun rapidly, it keeps its original plane of rotation, no matter which way the ring is turned. Historically, gyroscopes have been used as a way to keep moving ships, airplanes, and other large vessels level and stable. This same concept may be applied to holistic fitness.

Mental Fitness

Mental fitness is defined as a state of emotional and psychological wellbeing. Indicators of mental health can be seen in individuals who can use their cognitive and emotional capabilities effectively, to function in society, and meet the ordinary demands of everyday life. Like any other living organism, the mind requires nourishment, and feeding it may entail providing it with new input on a regular basis. Like a computer, the mind’s databases must occasionally be replenished with further information such as facts, reflections, music, creative writing, or visual images. To remain vibrant, this complex instrument also requires exercise through reading, life-long learning, and the introduction of new stimuli involving critical and complex thinking. Moreover, the mind functions best when it is in sync with the body and the spirit. From a transcendent standpoint, the renewing of the mind places one in a better position to discern moral and ethical distinctions in our complex world.

Physical Fitness

Keeping the body vibrant and free from disease is the goal of physical fitness. It entails freedom from illness and is accompanied by maintaining the ability to function efficiently and effectively, enjoy leisure, and cope with emergencies. Indicators of physical health include body composition, cardiovascular fitness, flexibility, neurological efficiency, muscular endurance, and muscle strength. People who are physically fit possess appropriate levels of agility, balance, coordination, power, reaction time, and speed. An excellent way to maintain physical wellbeing is to provide the body with exercise, nourishment, and balance. Information about how to do this is readily available. For example, physical wellbeing involves attending to the body’s physiological needs by getting regular health checkups, taking prescribed medicines, eating balanced meals, relaxing, and managing stress.

Ethereal Fitness

The human spirit is transcendent; that is, it goes beyond the limits of physical and psychological understanding. Many people tend to care for the mind and the body but neglect the “ethereal reality.” But how do we assess ethereal fitness? Just as the body can indicate emotional distress, our emotions can likewise give us clues to the sources of our ethereal unrest. Ethereal fitness demands exercise, nourishment, and balance just like the other two aspects of the human being. Our spirits are strengthened and liberated when we exercise regularly through meditation, reflection, journaling, and other acts of mindfulness. When we are ethereally fit, we can maintain balance in the face of mental and physical challenges. Exercising our ethereal muscles gives us stamina of a unique type. One source has noted ethereal wellbeing is evident in the person who finds meaning and purpose in life, and who operates from an intrinsic value system that guides both life and decisions. The following chart depicts my conceptualization of how dimensions of mind, body, and spirit are related.

Dimensions of Holistic Fitness

Mental

Dimension

Physical

Dimension

Ethereal

Dimension

Questions Addressed by Each Dimension What do I know?

How do I know? How does knowing affect my behavior?

How does knowing affect my emotions?

How do I feel?

Am I physically healthy?

Are all my bodily functions in a normal range?

What do I intuit?

What value should I give to a thing?

What is the nature of my transcendent relationship with others?

Sources:

Reed, L. C. (2017). The agape alternative. Chicago, IL: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform.

Reed, L. C. (2017). Transforming middle schools: A staff development workshop manual. Chicago, IL: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform.

Reed, L. C. (2017). Transforming school culture: A case study approach. Chicago, IL: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform.

 


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Perspective Transformation and Action Research

The table below shows the correspondence between Perspective Transformation and Action Research as process and method frameworks for systemic school change.

Activity: Review the Phases of Perspective Transformation and the Steps of Action Research in the table. React to and discuss the correspondence between the two models and the feasibility of the information for use in school settings.

Phases of Transformation Steps of Action Research
1. Disorienting dilemma Realized Need To Change
2. Self-examination Step 1: Look – Build a picture.
3. Critical assessment of assumptions Step 2: Think.

Interpret and explain what you see. Ask interpretive questions – Who, What, Where, When, Why, and How?

4. Recognizing link between discontent and the desire to transformation Prepare to fine-tune the problem.

What is real? What is ideal? What is the desired compromise?

5. Exploration of options Define tasks required to address the problem.

Chart the course and explore options.

6. Planning a course of action Step 3: Act.

Move forward. Formulate a detailed implementation plan. Identify task, steps, people, places, times, materials, and funds.

7. Acquiring knowledge and skills Reflect.

Evaluate and interpret data: What new knowledge have you gained? What has been the impact on the issue of concern? What do you still need to know?

8. Provisional trying of new roles Test options.
9. Building competence and self-confidence Identify additional training needs.

What additional training is required to build competence in the new role or situation?

10. Reintegration into one’s life of conditions dictated by one’s new perspective Internalize/Institutionalize your plans.

Develop new vision, routines, policies, and procedures to sustain the new outcome.

 

Sources:

Reed, L. C. (2017). The agape alternative. Chicago, IL: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform.

Reed, L. C. (2017). Transforming middle schools: A staff development workshop manual. Chicago, IL: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform.

Reed, L. C. (2017). Transforming school culture: A case study approach. Chicago, IL: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform.

 


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Fostering Resiliency Brainstorming Exercise

The consensus-building activity outlined here will help participants establish a vision for the resilient school. Using a brainstorming technique, members of the group are to identify what they perceive to be an ideal program for fostering resiliency in the school setting, given the circumstances of the case you are analyzing.

Begin this activity with brainstorming. Ask participants to generate as long a list as possible of protective factors that should be incorporated into their middle school setting to address the circumstances of the case. Be sure to include outcomes from all three of the protective factor categories:

  • Caring Relationships
  • High Expectations
  • Opportunities for Participation and Contribution

After whole-group brainstorming, participants should form small groups of 3 to 5 people. Make sure each group’s composition is as diverse as possible. The small groups will then attempt to arrive at a consensus on the five most critical and five least critical protective factors in each category. Priority should be given to those factors that are most likely to make an immediate difference in resolving the issues in the case. Other options may be added over time.

  • Caring Relationships
  • High Expectations
  • Opportunities for Participation and Contribution

Reconvene the whole group and ask representatives from each small group to share their lists. As a whole-group discussion, compare the lists to each other. Discuss the feasibility of each suggestion to promote protective factors in the environment.

  • What is the priority order in which the issues should be addressed?
  • What potential problems could arise during implementation of the protective factors?

Sources:

Reed, L. C. (2017). The agape alternative. Chicago, IL: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform.

Reed, L. C. (2017). Transforming middle schools: A staff development workshop manual. Chicago, IL: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform.

Reed, L. C. (2017). Transforming school culture: A case study approach. Chicago, IL: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform.

 


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Research for a Better World

I encourage practitioners to engage in “research for a better world.” Participants in a recent informal study concluded that research for a better world entails applying their gifts and talents, skills and knowledge in ways that are beneficial to the society at large. One participant indicated that research for a better world should be a central theme in how we use what we know to improve our circumstances. She noted: “It’s about the quality of life, of taking what we know as scholars and not talking and researching and writing among ourselves, but to take that to the street.” Another participant responded that the methods used to study issues should take into account the application of theory to practice. She said: “What I think research for a better world would encompass is distinguishing the real from the fake” (Reed, 2014, informal focus group interviews).

Research for a better world considers participants from retrospective, perspective, and prospective vantage points and considers the socio-political circumstances that have contributed to who they are physically, intellectually, psychologically, and spiritually. The outcomes of this type of research yield multi-dimensional conclusions and raise critical consciousness for social change.

Moreover, research for a better world acknowledges the ecological realities that define our present world. It searches for the interaction among all kinds of variables and encourages researchers to look inward, outward, around, upward and downward to examine the truth from as many angles as possible. Because it seeks holistic recommendations for change, research for a better world embraces diverse research traditions, including quantitative, qualitative, mixed-method, and rhetorical frameworks. Each of these approaches has its general strengths and limitations and reveals a different view of the truth. At the same time, when viewed together, the results of such mixed-method designs can help professionals construct a rich mosaic with implications for transformative and liberating praxis.

In summary, because many perspectives from within the school are brought to bear on the issues under investigation, the actions that emanate from collaboration have the potential to become the voices of many waters – active voices – affecting balance within the delicate school ecology. Ongoing, collaborative research further empowers school stakeholders to take charge of their own outcomes in ways that engender hope and self-determination across generations. In short, research for a better world promotes school renewal and resiliency.

Sources:

Reed, L. C. (2017). The agape alternative. Chicago, IL: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform.

Reed, L. C. (2017). Transforming middle schools: A staff development workshop manual. Chicago, IL: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform.

Reed, L. C. (2017). Transforming school culture: A case study approach. Chicago, IL: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform.


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Why do schools need action research?

Action researchers start with the simple premise that the situations under investigation are interfering with progress and stakeholders desire to find some way to improve them. Participants engage in collaborative processes to help them articulate how circumstances in their school community are “produced, reproduced and experienced on a daily basis” (McIntyre, 2000). To look at it from another perspective, collaborative action research engages a group of people in systematic trial and error. Hence, “all participants in the research process should rightfully be called researchers insofar as they engage in deliberate processes of inquiry or investigation with the intent of extending their understanding of a situation or a problem” (Graham, 2013, p. 12).

The focus is on practice. Related questions include: How do we work with what we have to make our circumstances better than what they are now? How do we glean from our history and our surroundings the information we need to make better decisions? How do we raise our awareness of what is appropriate and activate a plan to make it happen? Through the use of participatory action research participants problematize issues of concern and position themselves “as agents of inquiry and as ‘experts’ about their own lives” (McIntyre, 2000).

Participatory action research engages participants in critical analysis, storytelling, historical research, statistics, and raising critical consciousness about the socio-cultural circumstances in the life of the organization. Action research works, in part, because a range of perspectives from within the community is brought to bear on the issues under investigation, and the actions that emanate from collaboration have the potential to affect balance within the organizational ecology. The ability to engage in ongoing introspection empowers community stakeholders to take charge of their own outcomes in ways that engender hope and self-determination.

Action research has potential to change agents as well as agencies. Scrutiny of people, places, and circumstances may lead to modifications of viewpoint by requiring stakeholders to deconstruct rules, assumptions, and images; reflect on them, and reconstruct belief structures that enhance the organizational ecology.  Such deconstruction may be particularly useful in impacted urban communities currently plagued by violence and other social ills (Stringer, 1996). Moreover, action research comprises “research for a better world” (Reed, 2017).

Sources:

Reed, L. C. (2017). The agape alternative. Chicago, IL: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform.

Reed, L. C. (2017). Transforming middle schools: A staff development workshop manual. Chicago, IL: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform.

Reed, L. C. (2017). Transforming school culture: A case study approach. Chicago, IL: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform.

 


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Action Research

The purpose of most action research is to “provide a place for the perspectives of people who have previously been marginalized from opportunities to develop and operate policies, programs, and services – perspectives often concealed by the products of a typical research process” (Graham, 2013, p. 13) Graham further notes, this type of research contributes to “the increased well-being – economic, political, psychological, spiritual – of human persons and communities, and to a more equitable and sustainable relationship with the wider ecology of the planet of which we are an intrinsic part” (Graham, 2013, p. 14).

McIntyre (2000) pinpointed three principles that guide most participatory action research projects: “(1) the collective investigation of a problem, (2) the reliance on indigenous knowledge to better understand that problem, and (3) the desire to take individual and/or collective action to deal with the stated problem. These aims are achieved through collective investigation, education, and action throughout the research process.”

Additional characteristics of action research include collaboration among community members, focus on improving practice, decision-making driven by data, change in practice resulting from new awareness, and ongoing data collection and refinement. The process affords practitioners an opportunity to become immersed in gathering evidence to support improvement in their day-to-day circumstances (Stringer, 1996).

Sources:

Reed, L. C. (2017). The agape alternative. Chicago, IL: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform.

Reed, L. C. (2017). Transforming middle schools: A staff development workshop manual. Chicago, IL: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform.

Reed, L. C. (2017). Transforming school culture: A case study approach. Chicago, IL: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform.

 


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Phases of Perspective Transformation

Phases of Perspective Transformation

Phase 1 – Identify the disorienting dilemma of this case.

This step typically results from the convergence of several “disquieting” events or experiences that tend to upset the equilibrium within the organization and its stakeholders. What are some of the significant areas of concern presented in this case? Identify the most immediate areas of concern – the disorienting dilemmas. State the dilemma(s) in simple terms.

Phase 2 – Self-examination (Look)

This phase involves deep introspection about the problems or situations. Engagement with this phase might entail stakeholders having critical conversations about the significant issues. Questions that might facilitate organizational self-examination include:

  • What are the major issues? How are they interconnected?
  • In what ways do the school’s problems impede the goal of building resiliency in the school setting?
  • What specific personnel or organizational adjustments will have to be made if the major issues are to be resolved?
  • Assess the school’s strengths and weaknesses in the following areas:
    1. Caring Relationships
    2. High Expectations
    3. Opportunities for Participation and Contribution

Phase 3 – Critical analysis of assumptions (Think)

This phase requires stakeholders to examine their assumptions about people, places, things, or circumstances that could inhibit or facilitate change. Such assumptions should be deconstructed, critically assessed, and reconstructed in ways that enable movement toward the desired goal. Questions include the following:

  • Does everyone in the organization look at the issue in the same way? What are the points of departure and convergence?
  • What are the likely sources (or root causes) of problems in the following areas?
    1. Caring Relationships
    2. High Expectations
    3. Opportunities for Participation and Contribution
  • As a group, assess how Meier’s five questions on critical consciousness are being addressed? (Meier, 1995).
    1. How do we know what we know?
    2. Who’s speaking?
    3. What causes what?
    4. How might things have been different?
    5. Who cares?
  • What programs and policies need to be adjusted to support the implementation of protective factors in the school setting in each of the categories?
    1. Caring Relationships
    2. High Expectations
    3. Opportunities for Participation and Contribution

Phase 4 – Recognition that one’s discontent and the process of transformation are shared

This phase assumes that the stakeholders’ level of discontent with circumstances will serve as a motivator for change leading to transformation. Questions that might help to clarify the situation include:

  • What prohibits the organization/community from reaching the desired goal of resiliency?
  • What would be the consequences if the desired change were not made?

Phase 5 – Exploration of options: New roles, relationships, and actions

If change is warranted, stakeholders have to explore new roles, options, relationships, and actions, along with long-term and short-term implications. Exploratory considerations might include:

  • Ensure that the new program addresses all of the areas outlined below:
    1. Caring Relationships
    2. High Expectations
    3. Opportunities for Participation and Contribution
  • For the given scenario, what would be the ideal solution?

Phase 6 – Planning a course of action (Act)

Planning a new course of action entails developing a set of action steps for activating protective factors in the school setting and taking the plan to build resiliency to the next level.  Guiding questions might include:

  • What steps must be taken to reach an ideal formulated by the group? (The “new ideal” must be contextual and may vary from school to school.)
  • What new roles and relationships should be cultivated to advance movement toward resiliency?
  • What is the relative difficulty of implementing each protective factor?
  • What are other details that need to be considered in an action plan? (i.e., “who, what, when, where, why, and how”).

Phase 7 – Acquiring knowledge and skills for implementing the plan

This phase involves helping stakeholders acquire knowledge and skills needed to implement an action plan. This list of skill-building activities does not need to be all inclusive but should provide stakeholders opportunities to build competence in critical areas. Questions to be addressed at this phase include:

  • What are the organization’s/stakeholders’ current strengths and weaknesses about the achievement of resiliency protective factors?
    1. Caring Relationships
    2. High Expectations
    3. Opportunities for Participation and Contribution
  • What resources are accessible to help stakeholders build competence and self-confidence in their redefined roles and relationships?

Phase 8 – Provisional trying of new roles

This phase involves stakeholders practicing acquired skills and acquiring experiences. Questions to be considered at this phase include:

  • What new skills and knowledge have stakeholders acquired to nurture protective factors?
    1. Caring Relationships
    2. High Expectations
    3. Opportunities for Participation and Contribution
  • What lessons have stakeholders learned so far?
  • What additional opportunities exist for growth and development?

Phase 9 – Building competence and self-confidence in new roles and relationships

Building competence and self-confidence entails involvement in opportunities to improve performance in the new role(s).

  • Develop a tentative list of possible opportunities for building competence and self-confidence.
  • What are the costs involved in pursuing each opportunity?

Phase 10 – Reintegration into one’s life of conditions dictated by one’s new perspective

For this phase, reintegration is defined as what occurs after a radical change has been completed. Questions include:

  • In what ways are the stakeholders equipped to apply newfound skills and insights to achieving and sustaining resiliency?
  • In what ways should the organization or stakeholder invest materially, intellectually, physically, and emotionally to sustain resiliency?
  • What mechanisms will be used for the organization or stakeholder to engage in constant reflection and revision of the goal to promote resiliency?

Sources:

Reed, L. C. (2017). The agape alternative. Chicago, IL: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform.

Reed, L. C. (2017). Transforming middle schools: A staff development workshop manual. Chicago, IL: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform.

Reed, L. C. (2017). Transforming school culture: A case study approach. Chicago, IL: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform.

 


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Resilient Schools

Thriving school communities recognize that resilient people are the lifeblood of any organization. In a comprehensive literature review, Adrian Du Plessis Van Breda indicated that resilience theory has been evolving over the past 70-80 years. It has enjoyed a resurgence in the past two or three decades. He noted: “What started as an enquiry into the childhood roots of resilience has grown into a broad, dynamic and exciting field of study. Resilience theory currently addresses individuals (both children and adults), families, communities, workplaces and policies. There are few domains of life that have not been touched in one or other way by resilience theory, including the military community” (Van Breda, 2001).

Resilience is “the human capacity of all individuals to transform and change, no matter what their risks,” according to Benard (1995). Christle noted that resiliency is the ability “to cope or ‘bounce back’ from significant adverse life situations or stresses in such ways that are not only immediately effective but also result in an increased ability to respond to future adversity” (Christle, 2000). Resilience also can be viewed as the capacity to adapt successfully in the face of adversity and “develop social, academic, and vocational competence despite exposure to severe stress or simply to the stress that is inherent in today’s world” (Henderson & Milstein, 2003, p. 7). According to Jones (2009), the individual characteristics of resiliency are defined as innate abilities that reside in an individual and remain centered during difficult times. These abilities can be taught and developed over time (Brooks, 1994; Hall & Pearson, 2005 as cited in Jones, 2009).

Fostering resiliency is especially vital in today’s world where young people routinely spend time surviving violence while negotiating the psychosocial, economic, raced, gendered, classed, and sociocultural borders that inform and influence their lives. Researchers continue to search for the select variables that contribute to the development of resiliency in humans (Patterson, 2002). In the field of education, resiliency is as student outcomes or the increased probability of academic and social accomplishments in spite of setbacks (Brown, 2001; Milstein & Henry, 2000 as cited in Jones, 2009). In a 2007 study, Harvey defined resilience regarding a person who draws on his or her self-worth to be a personal advocate (Harvey, 2007 as cited in Jones, 2009). Martin and Marsh defined the resilient student as one who is “engaged in the school setting in spite of complicated and adverse experiences and who ultimately graduates from high school” (Martin & Marsh, 2006 as cited in Jones, 2009).

Sources:

Reed, L. C. (2017). The agape alternative. Chicago, IL: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform.

Reed, L. C. (2017). Transforming middle schools: A staff development workshop manual. Chicago, IL: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform.

Reed, L. C. (2017). Transforming school culture: A case study approach. Chicago, IL: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform.

 


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Frontier and Settlement Cultures in Schools

The situational framework for systemic school change uses theory about “frontier” and “settlement” cultures in schools. Douglas Mitchell and Sharon Tucker (1992, p. 32) theorized that schools are part of a successful and established system for the socialization of the young. Some schools are in transition and need redirection, reform, and restructuring to meet new conditions or reach new goals. Other schools exist in community cultures where there is broad-ranged support based on a consensus about the purposes and processes of education.

The difference between these two diverse cultural settings resembles frontier life versus settled communities. In “Frontier” cultures, life is rough, the danger is everywhere, and groups have to band together for mutual support and protection. Staff development in Frontier cultures emphasizes team building and problem-solving. This is so because there is a need for common experiences and a shared commitment to the emerging community (Mitchell & Tucker, 1992). Life in “Settled” cultures, on the other hand, entails well-established norms and shared beliefs. These communities have stable schools and programs with tasks and relationships that are well specified. In settlement cultures, leaders often recruit excellent staff, coordinate support services, and allow core functions to be performed by staff experts (Mitchell & Tucker, 1992, p. 32-33).

Students function best when the environment can meet their needs. Otherwise, the tension between the students and the system tends to increase. Efforts to affect change in frontier school cultures should acknowledge the ecological realities that define the community. Schools functioning in changing communities should search for interactions among all kinds of variables that impact student learning and school culture.

Educators in changing schools should engage in praxis involving inward, outward, upward and downward examination to seek the truth from as many angles as possible. The goal is to sustain a contextually appropriate practice in response to complexities in contemporary organizations. Many frameworks for accomplishing this kind of scrutiny are available for use in school settings. One of them is resiliency theory and the START-SC model.

Sources:

Reed, L. C. (2017). The agape alternative. Chicago, IL: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform.

Reed, L. C. (2017). Transforming middle schools: A staff development workshop manual. Chicago, IL: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform.

Reed, L. C. (2017). Transforming school culture: A case study approach. Chicago, IL: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform.