I am trying hard to imagine the reaction to a newspaper headline or the top story on the evening news that says, “BREAKING NEWS: Boeing Builds Plane Mid-Flight!”. I wonder if the world would herald the respected company for its innovative new construction process or ridicule it for brazen disregard for engineering and aerodynamics. Would stocks soar or plummet?
For me, I personally would feel unsafe getting into a plane that was being built while in flight. I was recently traveling and during my layover, the plane of which I had just gotten off needed a mechanical issue addressed before I got back on it to continue to my destination. Please be clear, the plane did not stop because of the mechanical concern; rather, it was just a part of its flight routine. I boarded the plane a few minutes later, and I made it home safely and on time.
I share this story because I am extremely frustrated with educational leaders that use the term “building the plane while flying it”
in reference to any number of changes or reforms in which they are involved or leading. I am not sure why we gravitate to this phrase, but we use it a lot. In one week, I heard it seven times. And it needs to stop.
Good grief. Tell me, would we get onto an airplane knowing that it was going to be rebuilt in the midst of the flight? Would we deem the company credible? Would we consider ourselves sane? I think the answer is “no” to all those questions, yet why do we use this phrase to discuss the improvements we are making to our educational systems?
In education, we deserve a better phrase than this to describe the intense work we are doing with continuous school improvement. We need to use a phrase that speaks to the integrity and intensity of our work. We need a phrase that conjures an image of professional competence, not willful neglect or ignorance. We need a phrase that accurately describes the hard work we do daily.
But, please, until we find that phrase, can we at least stop telling parents, students, legislators and community stakeholders that we are “building the plane as we fly it”? I am never taking that flight with you as long as you are, nor are many others.