I've been reading the book The Power of Moments by Chip and Dan Heath. There have been a ton of great quotes and insights that have jumped off the page at me. The one that has really been sticking with me though is this one:
In most every profession, there are elements of peaks and valleys. It is also very tempting to get the simple things done. But getting caught up in the reasonable can cause a loss of your challenge. Reasonable pulls us away from our passions, from the dreams that could change the world. Reasonable causes the incredible to fade away to the mundane.
To push against the reasonable, turning away from the speed bumps and toward your Everest, you must make that choice. Choose the path that you don't feel comfortable with. Choose the path that might make others feel awkward. Choose the path that can make the impact that will create the moment that will change the lives that you are impacting every day.
Choose Everest. Don't let the speed bumps get in the way, try to skip to the slow path of Everest.
I came across this quote from G. K. Chesterton this weekend:
"The vision is always solid and reliable, the vision is always a fact. It is the reality that is often the fraud".
Vision is key in most every passion that one might hold in their live. You visualize the goals that you have to complete the task at hand. You dream about the final products, what they will look like and the accolades that come with them. But what happens when we are satisfied with the vision, and the reality never comes to be? Reality becomes the fraud that there is no connection to the vision. "One day I will do this..." or "If only I had a this ingredient, then I could complete the goal".
When I think about this quote and that "the reality is often the fraud" there are any number of excuses and ideas I could drop into this piece to explain away the vision, but they all come back to fear.
So if the vision is solid, reliable and factual, then what is the fear? The fear is the distraction of other, less important priorities, time, resources, etc. The challenge is leaning into the fear in order to take a step toward the vision.
The goals of tomorrow will not come as easily as the distractions of today. Fear must be fought head-on, for the confrontations we endure, create the true change toward our vision.
How often has a student, colleague or friend said, "I can't do it"?
Within the element of our daily work, within the classroom, within the schoolhouse, these words shouldn't exist.
Education should be an environment of "let's figure it out". Not "your wrong".
The fear of failing needs to be extinguished from our hallways and our lockers. Removed from the desks that are filled each day with unlimited potential.
Step through the fear, lean into the uncomfortable, and bask in the glory beyond the veil of dread.
With each fear that we confront, we are prepared for the next greatest adventure.
Let me define labels for this discussion.
A piece of material attached to an object giving information about it.
But in the case of education lets say: "A cloud that sticks over a student's head throughout their educational life because of choices or determinations based on a lack of data collected by those around them.
I know that there are more definitions and Merriam Webster is pulling out their imaginary hair right now (because they in fact are not a person), but I think it is important to understand that when we label someone in a school, we are doing more than we thought. To clarify, I am not diving into the labels that have been traditionally connected to bullying, alienation, segregation, etc., but the "healthy" labels that we as education professionals bring into our schools to market our learning and encourage different portions of the population.
In the next two posts that I publish I want to explore two labels I have been in contact with:
Part 1: Hard vs. Easy Teachers
Part 2: Gifted (Pre-AP) vs. On-Level students
As a teacher...are you Hard or Easy?
Here is a quote from Jo Boaler in her book Limitless Mind:
"...a high-school math teacher in my local school district announced to his eager fifteen-year-old students who were placed in his high-level math class: "You may think you are hot shit, but no one gets above a C in this class."
I don't know about you, but I remember that teacher. I had that teacher. I frequently left that teacher's classroom frustrated and angry at them and the subject because I didn't fully understand.
The sad part... I have even been that teacher on certain tests or assignments.
That's not a good teacher.
This is a teacher who is self absorbed in their "abilities" to embrace a tough subject. More focused on their process and planning, lectures and tests than the actual learning of the students. One might argue that teachers who exude this type of attitude are actually really successful, and if I did more research I would find that more than 3 students would get a C in this class, it's simply just a way to motivate the students.
The tough part is our students have changed. We are not in my grandfather's generation where you rolled up your sleeves, buried down your thoughts and got the job done. The more information available to students and teachers has required a shift in the status quo that is continuing to grow.
Being a hard teacher today can be taken care of really easily. Students are not stuck with you if you are the "hard teacher". Online education, MOOCs, and enhanced student choice provide opportunities for the "hard teacher" to be avoided. To some this label might be a medal of honor, I remember for a brief second feeling that way when a parent relayed that comment to me. Quickly that faded into a deep concern and need to sit with that student and understand their mindset in the classroom and why I was the "hard teacher".
Now I'm not saying layover and let the students walk, but embrace ideas, models and strategies that allow for the students to thrive as they take ownership of their own path. There are many more ways to be a great teacher, being the hard teacher is not one of them.
Boaler continues in the quote from above, "Such ideas harm people, and they harm the disciplines, because access is denied to the diverse thinkers who would have provided beneficial insights and breakthroughs in these fields." (pg. 44)
Mistakes happen, attitudes can change. As a teacher are you willing to humble yourself to better equip your students? Are you willing to change the memory that your students have of you from "they were an impossible teacher" to "this teacher changed my life".
The choice is yours.
Part 2 of this series will be published soon!
Taylor currently serves as a Coordinator of Innovative Learning for a mid-sized school district in Texas. He is a speaker, writer, and coach for all who are in conflict with the status quo.