Are Schools a Circus?
Schools are often referred to as a "circus", by those outside of schools but most often by those within them. For most of us, a circus conjures up images of comical animals, call-outs for peanuts and popcorn, perhaps risky rides that groan and creak, and loud crowds. In fact, if you search images for a "circus" on Google, you'll see such images. I've included a screenshot of my own image search here:
And if you've ever worked in a school, you probably have joked about your own circus-related experiences. Much of the time, a circus is accompanied by feelings of joy, laughter, and excitement. For some, it can bring about feelings of anxiety, treachery, or dread.
It's true. Schools absolutely can feel like a three-ring-circus at times with the hectic and flexible schedules, the overwhelm of endless to-do lists, the many meetings that overlap, the performances put on day in and day out, the drama that, at times, is as entertaining as a soap opera, and so on. But is this version of a circus really how we want our schools described?
What if a different kind of circus came to town?
What if, instead of the kind of circus we tend to assume, was actually more like Cirque Du Soleil. You see, this brings on a new image. An image of quiet crowds staring in awe, extremely well-choreographed and over-rehearsed acts, settings of remarkable creativity and beauty, and the feeling of being part of something uniquely beyond yourself.
There's a reason Cirque Du Soleil allows us to envision a circus in a completely new and different way. It is still, in fact, a circus. However, this circus is an orchestration. Here is the vision posted on the Cirque Du Soleil website:
We are more than a circus. We are rule breakers & moment makers. We create the most audacious reality.
Rule breakers! MOMENT MAKERS! How is this audacious reality made possible? Yes, by talented individuals, but also because these individuals work extremely intentionally as a team of teams. Every team is reliant upon its team members, of course, but every team is also reliant upon other teams in order to create an extraordinary experience. And it is imperative for each team to see itself as integral to other teams in order for the whole team, the whole organization, to succeed.
What if schools functioned in this way? What if we were able to envision our schools more like a Cirque du Soleil versus a Ringling Bros Circus? What if schools truly functioned more as a team of teams and less as individual groups with varied goals? Because in all reality, I believe most schools function as the latter. What evidence suggests this? In my experience, it seems that more schools than not:
What does it take?
What does it take, though, to become the "Cirque Du Soleil" of schools? What does it take for our schools to function as a "Team of Teams"? I believe there are six critical components of cohesive teams. There are three internal components, and three external components. In order for schools to function as a Team of Teams, both internal and external components need to be activated and present.
If your school can function as a Team of Teams with the internal components (self & social awareness, collaboration, and reflection) and the external components (conditions, models, and protocols), then you might see this evidence of success:
What kind of circus is your school?
So I leave you with this: how do you currently envision your school? Are you imagining a Ringling Bros Circus or a Cirque Du Soleil? Perhaps you're noticing both in different areas? What components could be missing in your circus? What components exist, but could use a bit of tweaking? What components are alive and well? Comment on this blogpost and share your thoughts!
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Welcome! I am Casey Watts- Collaborative Leader and Culture Changer!