Some time ago I went to Training Café where we worked with the “Pro Action Café” method on a topic that I’m obsessed with lately: “How to improve the formal educational system in Romania?”.

I started by thinking of the main actors in the current educational system:

[ut_highlight color=”#ff6e00″]- professors[/ut_highlight]

[ut_highlight color=”#ff6e00″]- students[/ut_highlight]

[ut_highlight color=”#ff6e00″]- parents[/ut_highlight]

[ut_highlight color=”#ff6e00″]- schools/high schools[/ut_highlight]

[ut_highlight color=”#ff6e00″]- inspectorates[/ut_highlight]

[ut_highlight color=”#ff6e00″]- ministry[/ut_highlight]

[ut_highlight color=”#ff6e00″]- professors forming universities[/ut_highlight]

[ut_highlight color=”#ff6e00″]- NGOs[/ut_highlight]

[ut_highlight color=”#ff6e00″]- educational companies etc.[/ut_highlight]

Then I asked myself: What does it mean to improve the educational system? How can you see and measure any improvement?

I realized I was fueled with a desire to fight a system that, no matter the beautiful values and principles declared, was, in reality, a system that traumatized children.

The only contributor to the exercise, Maria Homm, asked me with great insight: what is the higher purpose? What do I actually want to achieve through this improvement?

I explored a bit all the answers that went through my mind:

[ut_highlight color=”#ff6e00″]- growing emotionally, socially and intellectually mature adults[/ut_highlight]

[ut_highlight color=”#ff6e00″]- developing the whole human potential, so as to become their better self, the Jungian “actualization”[/ut_highlight]

[ut_highlight color=”#ff6e00″]- individuals who live and create a better society (the happiness index)[/ut_highlight]

So, looking at the mind map that was forming before me, I realized that these principles existed, in theory, in all the current actors in the system, but the way they implemented them, that was self-sabotaging.

Then, I thought about the alternatives to the formal educational system and their impact on long term:

[ut_highlight color=”#ff6e00″]- homeschooling[/ut_highlight]

[ut_highlight color=”#ff6e00″]- alternate educational systems[/ut_highlight]

It was clear to me that formal education focused on knowledge accumulation, control and obedience, critical and homogenous evaluation, motivating students through rewards and punishments.

And, from my experience, they should be focusing on developing abilities and competencies, free decision making and involvement in the decision process, self-observation and evaluation according to potential, motivating students through authentic respect, passion and personal example.

Maria went on reformulating what I had said, resuming that I didn’t want professors, but mentors, human and vocational models.

So, then, I realized something else: maybe it’s not the system, the curriculum, the objectives that influence the educational process, but the human quality and the attitudes of the professors involved.

I remembered about that experiment with professors who were told they had the best class, and the ones who were told they had the worst class. Those classes were randomly constructed and had similar performances. But, surprisingly, the unconscious attitude of the professors made a difference: the first drove their class to whole lot better results. They didn’t teach something else, didn’t have a different wage, but they saw their students in a different light. And, as we already know, what we believe tends to become real.

So, tens of other questions appeared in my mind:

[ut_highlight color=”#ff6e00″]- Where are these people?[/ut_highlight]

[ut_highlight color=”#ff6e00″]- How can you attract them in the system?[/ut_highlight]

[ut_highlight color=”#ff6e00″]- How do you select them?[/ut_highlight]

[ut_highlight color=”#ff6e00″]- How do you keep them?[/ut_highlight]

[ut_highlight color=”#ff6e00″]- How can you awake this attitude in the current professors?[/ut_highlight]

[ut_highlight color=”#ff6e00″]- What makes this attitude disappear after a while?[/ut_highlight]

20 minutes passed (the allotted time for that phase), so Maria asked me to rephrase my topic, in the light of the new discoveries.

I reached my conclusion: “How to facilitate the transformation of the current professors into those who can grow, through their example, socially and psychologically mature people?”

Two more sessions of creative analysis were the next steps, one regarding “What’s missing?” and another regarding “What are the first real actions that we can take?”, but I had to go, as I planned a beer with the guys.

[ut_highlight color=”#ff6e00″]

My learnings


“Pro Action Cafe” really works, especially if you have a contributor that has a coaching attitude

We grow kids by who we are, not what we say

The transition from fighting the system to actual and real involvement into transforming and supporting passionate and authentic professors

[ut_highlight color=”#ff6e00″]

Did you have a similar experience? What did you learn?