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  Workshop 6: Civic Engagement  
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Workshop 6

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Teacher Perspectives: Total community quality

Bill Mittlefehldt: One of the things that we’ve developed here in Anoka over the last 12 years is targets for teamwork. There’s a whole business side to this. In 1992, I was writing software for improving schools in America and in the process of getting trained for that ran into some very outstanding business partners, who were very willing to share with a curious educator the notion of continuous quality improvement. When I shared that with some of our education partners and some of the people in the community on the civic side, we blew that up to say, “Why shouldn’t every community be improving the quality by engaging every student in the shared process?” That’s this notion of total community quality. It’s really a business idea that we’ve exploded in Anoka to include all the citizens, especially kids and senior citizens, who we call our tribal elders because we want to give it a connotation of respect. We try and affirm each other’s strengths and gifts so that we can contribute to the American republic.

We assembled a business team, a health team, and an environmental team, which include teachers and students, to analyze the targets that we need to hit if we’re going to improve our entire system. In 1993, we made them available to the community, but they’re also now in the school. When we challenge the kids, we say, “Which one of these targets--business, health, or environment--would you like to fix for the future of our system?” It’s very challenging. We [believe that] if they can feel they’ve made a contribution to improving any part of the system in their high school experience, then those kids are going to be very well prepared to be team leaders on any team they play on for the rest of their life. We’re really talking about workforce readiness issues and how you integrate that psyche, that character, so that they feel like they have a responsibility to contribute and be a team leader.


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