Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Mirror, Mirror On The Wall

I find this flickr image funny, but also realistic. It is much easier to express a desire for change rather than to engage in the personal, hard, long, and sometimes frightening work of change.

A little more than a week ago, all educators in our district were guided in professional learning by Ken Williams, co-author of the book Starting a Movement: Building Culture From the Inside Out in Professional Learning Communities. Ken functioned as our thinking partner around creating and sustaining a learning-for-all culture. Evaluations from the day were overwhelmingly positive, but as with any outside consultant, the real "change" work begins after he or she finishes. Otherwise, the professional learning is an event, not a process:

Innovation is a process, too; a process to introduce change.

Even with a process in place to move the work forward, you cannot overlook that the work will be done with, by, and for people. it is utterly dependent upon them. And sometimes, it is difficult to come to a consensus. It reminds me of this great meme from An Affair to Remember:

I actually believe that it is out of the difficulty that great things arise, but when you're mired in the process, the easiest thing to do is to go back to what you know, and shut your classroom door. 

If you're trying to be innovative and hit roadblocks, how do you stay committed to the process and keep others committed? One idea is to spend some upfront time exploring identity -- both individually and as an organization.

One place I go to for guidance is William Bridges' book, Transitions: Making Sense of Life's Changes.  On page 80, he writes:
Whether the source of transition is an external change or your own inner development, the transition always starts with an ending. To become something else, you have to stop being what you are now; to start doing things a new way, you have to end the way you are doing them now; and to develop a new attitude or outlook, you have to let go of the old one you have now.
Again, easier said than done. If my identity as an educator is being who I am right now, coupled with doing things in a certain way, change -- even change I say I want -- threatens my very core. How do I let go, especially without knowing where I will end up?

I recently read some work of Parker Palmer, specifically the first chapter in The Courage to Teach. I was moved by this excerpt on identity:
If students and subjects accounted for all the complexities of teaching, our standard ways of coping would do—keep up with our fields as best we can, and learn enough techniques to stay ahead of the student psyche. But there is another reason for these complexities: we teach who we are.Teaching, like any truly human activity, emerges from one’s inwardness, for better or worse. As I teach, I project the condition of my soul onto my students, my subject, and our way of being together. The entanglements I experience in the classroom are often no more or less than the convolutions of my inner life. Viewed from this angle, teaching holds a mirror to the soul. If I am willing to look in that mirror, and not run from what I see, I have a chance to gain self-knowledge—and knowing myself is as crucial to good teaching as knowing my students and my subject.
"We teach who we are." That one phrase, 1/3 of the way into the excerpt, hit home. It's not just about specific strategies or techniques or classroom management -- although they make a difference. Are we willing to look in the mirror and reflect on who we are? Are we willing to look in the mirror and reflect on whether who we are is what our kids deserve? Are we willing to look in the mirror and reflect with our peers on who we are?

This might be the most innovative process of all.

Join the conversation...
What are your thoughts on educator identity? Does the connection to innovation make sense?

Thanks for reading,

1 comment:

  1. Glad to roll up my sleeves with this team. Thanks, Judy. Your blog is always insightful and challenging - both are needed and appreciated.