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Power sharing includes three variables: authority structure, spaces for participation, and scope of participation.
First, authority structures describe the school’s leadership approach. Holistic democracy (HD) school leaders distribute decision making and share responsibility, while rational bureaucratic hierarchy (RBH) leaders implement top-down approaches that place themselves clearly as the authority. HD structures require mutual accountability for all members of the school community including administrators, counselors, teachers, students, and parents. This might perpetuate within an HD school as student-or teacher-led decision-making groups that hold themselves accountable for reaching goals and completing tasks.
Spaces of Participation
Second, spaces for participation describes the openness of decision-making structures. Exclusive spaces limit participation to only a few stakeholders, such as administrators, and make the decision-making process secretive. Conversely, inclusive spaces allow for transparency through communal participation of all school members. RBH schools utilize exclusive spaces whereas HD schools create inclusive spaces for participation.
Scope of Participation
Third, scope of participation describes the actual topics that are discussed collectively within the school. Although teachers and students may be invited to participate in making some decisions at an RBH school, administrators at such schools would limit teacher and student participation to more trivial topics. For instance, a principal may ask students what menus they enjoy eating from in the school cafeteria but would not ask students to help create the school’s strategic plan. An HD school would focus participation beyond operational matters and toward the mission and vision of the school. In other words, all school community members would be invited to contribute to discussions determining the overall direction of the school toward academic improvement for all students and the development of equitable policies and practices.
Transforming dialogue also includes three variables: communication flows, key purpose of dialogue, and engagement.
First, the communication flows variable identifies the direction of communication. On the one hand, within RHB schools, stakeholders focus more on telling instead of listening. In addition, who does the telling is limited to a small group of stakeholders such as administrators and department chairs. On the other hand, in HD schools, communication flows in numerous directions where all stakeholders are welcome to contribute in an environment of trust and respect. In other words, all members of the school community, including administrators, teachers, students, parents, and other stakeholders, are not only invited to share their perspectives and ideas openly but also are willing to genuinely listen to each other so that communication flows between and among all members.
Key Purpose of Dialogue
Second, the key purpose of dialogue in HD schools is the sharing of diverse viewpoints, epidemiological, and research with the goal of moving groups toward innovative and communal ideas that transform thinking. This purpose contrasts with that of RHB schools, where dialogue is mainly situational and focused on communicating information. When the purpose of dialogue is holistic, new ideas can be rigorously explored; stakeholders examine problems and explore multiple solutions with the goal of growth for the whole school community.
Third, engagement describes the value that the school places on specific types of personal participation. RHB schools value participation that advantages specific individuals who are motivated to act on balance of rewards they will receive. Conversely, HD schools engage all members as complete individuals who each bring special talents, skills, motivations, and desires to the logical process. This allows individuals to be their genuine selves in the context of interactions. They may share not only knowledge or skills but also beliefs and feelings.
Holistic well-being includes three variables: community, personal, and mindset. Community well-being embodies the focus of relationships within the school.
First, community distinguishes the ways that members of the school community connect with each other. Interactions within RHB schools are characterized by selfish or self-centered objectives, where common purposes are addressed only superficially. However, community within HD schools embodies a sense of harmony where members are valued as individuals and compassionate relationships are cultivated. This occurs in schools when teachers and students demonstrate that they care about each other as individuals. Such care might be embodied in teachers showing interest in students’ lives outside of school or noticing when students are unhappy and asking them how they can help.
Second, personal well-being signifies how the school develops and supports each member’s sense of connection to the school. At RHB schools, various stakeholders may feel alienated or separated from the school. However, HD schools nurture harmony with oneself, one another, the global community, and the ultimate reality. Schools can nurture personal harmony by providing students and teachers opportunities for personal reflection within the school day.
Finally, mindset describes the way of thinking valued by the school. RHB schools privilege compliance, whereas HD schools desire democratic consciousness. When stakeholders are democratically conscious, they collaborate as autonomous, thinking individuals united through the common goals of seeking reality and working for social justice. This could manifest in schools via service learning projects, community partnerships, or social activism.