As parents, one thing that we have tried to impress upon on children is the importance of sharing, whether it is with siblings, friends, or other people, we have tried to help our children understand the importance of sharing while at the same time helping them to understand that they must be careful with what they are sharing through their social networks, the different social apps that they use, the people with whom they engage and the relationships they have with others.
It’s Not That Simple
Being a “modern” educator, for some, means having a PLN, integrating technology, and, through various means, “sharing”. However, too often educators who aren’t integrating, twittering or blogging or aren’t seen as embracing technological advancements are often described as somehow being “less” as teachers, as being not as worthy,
“And, sadly, some people write off technology as a chore or passing fad”
This attitude, unfortunately, continues to reinforce the binary of the “good/bad” teacher which does little to explore the strengths of people but, instead, serves to limit people and continue traditional power structures that have dominated educational discourses throughout history where certain groups are described as “less worthy” because of their lack of knowledge or talent or whatever can be used to create the power binary. We have to remember throughout time, “good/bad” teachers has meant things very different from the present.
The idea that it is right to be a student-centered and caring teacher rather than a self-centered teacher is one that, while strongly held at this point in time, is contingent as any other idea about good teaching in any other historical period. McWilliam, 2004
Sharing, as an educator, has now become what “relevant teachers” do because it is now “right and proper” to do so. But the definition of “sharing” continues to change and morph as can be seen in the continual changes found in the Terms of Service of apps like Facebook and Twitter and the use of various social networks for various types of sharing.
In fact, there are numerous examples of people who have made poor decisions when sharing online, examples of how sharing and privacy have become issues and the harmful effects that happen when things are shared without people’s knowledge or their consent such as the numerous examples of phishing scams where people have had their information used by scammers and the harmful and destructive consequences of people who have pictures stolen and shared against their consent.
Sharing is Important
Learning to be generous with time and resources is something I want my children to develop and appreciate. However, it’s also not quite as simple as Mark Zuckeburg makes it out
“Facebook’s mission and what we really focus on giving everyone the power to share all of the things that they care about,”
Yes, sharing is important and something that needs to continue, especially for teachers. However, it’s not as simple as “just sharing”. There are many instances when, although I wanted to share, doing so would have been unethical or might have had negative consequences. Like many others, I’ve been on the receiving end of nasty trolling from taking a particular point of view. It’s not always possible or positive to share one’s experiences.
In a world dominated by the digital, sharing online seems to be the ONLY way that some people consider to be real sharing. Yet, in many instances, the intimate conversations that take place between two people, or in a small group, can be what really cements and binds our socially mediated relationships.
As educators, relationships are so important and, although having digital relationships and learning to live in a world where digital discourse, literacy, citizenship, and relationship are important, there is a place for people who are more comfortable with the less-digital, less-technological. If we believe that each person’s development is important, then genuinely respecting and honouring them should allow us to feel anything but “sad”. In fact
Good teachers will one day feel differently about progressive teaching, just as they have done in other times and places. McWilliam, 2004
What do You Share? How do You Share?
How do you share? What do you share? How does sharing fit in your lifestyle as a teacher? Parent? Partner? Individual?
How Do You View Change?
Change is constant.
Change is inevitable.
Change can be positive or it can be negative.
Change can be hard to describe and its effects can be even harder to put into words.
A Summer of Change
This summer has brought about a number of changes for many people I know – some are moving to new jobs, some are moving to new schools, some are moving to new communities, some are entering new stages of their lives and a few are doing all of the above!
Having gone through the process of moving (9 times), a new job (8 times), a new school (10 times) and community (6 times) and the change brought on by having children (8 of them) or having children leave (3 of them), I’ve come to view change as the way life is lived. I’ve recently had to begin to care for my parents as they age, something with which I have little experience which means that, like many things, I’m learning as I go.
As I read various articles that are geared at examining changes that might be experienced by teachers, either by new technology or new strategies or new assessment or different expectations or the recent online phenomenon or …. it goes on, I notice that there is a natural tendency to generalize things across a population, something that tends to happen quite often in education. People speak of “teachers” needing to “…..” because of their particular worldview and point of view. Not that’s it’s bad but that really is theirs and, sometimes, if it’s the dominant societal one, it goes without question.
However, in my experience, this tendency masks the individual responses that people experience as they go through change. Generalizing that this change or that change will have this effect or that effect misses the point – the change will be individual and will have a different affect depending on the person. What I view as a positive change, others will deem negative and, surprisingly, many won’t even register nor care about.
How do You envision Change?
However, if Change is happening regularly, maybe taking a different approach might help.
The diagram at the beginning of the post is from the Design Thinking approach to problem solving and innovation. Having read Tim Brown’s book Change by Design a number of years ago and reread parts since then and taking the Stanford Course on Design Thinking, I began applying the principles to how I view change and the changes taking place around me. Eventually, applying these principles, I determined that change was not only okay, but desirable – part of the reason that I headed off to the University of Regina to begin a PhD with Dr. Alec Couros.
As this image from the Change by Design site shows, looking at change from different perspectives not only can help one to determine the What and How of change but give you different options for addressing change.
Change By Design at IDEO | IDEO http://buff.ly/2a1Xkk7
In combination with the work of Todd Henry – Accidental Creative, Die Empty, Louder than Words – and Cal Newport – So Good they Can’t Ignore You, Deep Work – and others, I have shifted my thinking about my work, the impact of change and the process of development from one that “happens” to one I am able to be part of the solution process and make decisions that help me to continue to follow my unique path.
Instead of always looking to innovate, adopt a new mindset or flip something, I can be open to new ideas and new processes but not always looking for the “next big thing” because my focus isn’t being distracted by my peripheral vision – something I borrowed from Todd Henry. So, yes there are many things going on – change is all around us but, for many people, it’s a distraction from doing their great work, a distraction from the path they are creating and building. Learning from/with others is important, such as doing a book study with others to expand ideas and push oneself, reading different authors and listening to TEDtalks and other forms of learning but it’s just as important to be creative, to question what people are saying, and to build your own – isn’t that what everyone seems to be saying needs to happen?
Often many of us are pulled this way or that, always looking for the next “new thing, great book, interesting method and innovation” instead of focusing on the path we are building. Yes, something might be interesting and worth exploring – but make no mistake, many who are commenting on it and writing about it are interweaving it with their path – seeing how it can add to their message – which is what you need to do.
You are on your own journey – one unique to you.
Jana Scott Lindsay, in her last post Consumed explores the impact of being connected and how she is seeing a need for change …
I think that it is time to work at finding balance. Leave your devices out of sight, to encourage out of mind for a time & space each and every day.
Change – yes, it’s always happening.
Change – what about you?
Week 2 of the #saskedchat Summer Blogging Challenge
Our topic this week is Supporting. Tribe, a post by Jana Scott Lindsay, has me pondering how do we support ourselves and, just as importantly, be part of a support system for others. Jana starts her post off with a great quote from Seth Godin – go check it out. I’ll wait.
Pretty great quote isn’t it? Great post too!
Seth Godin constantly reminds me that I don’t have to write a short story to get a point across. In fact, sometimes less is more. In his post today, The Top of The Pile he asks
We need an empathy of attention. Attention is something that can’t be refunded or recalled. Once it’s gone, it’s gone.
So, what have you done to earn it?
In his latest book What to do When It’s Your Turn (and it’s always your turn) Godin reminds us that
Now, more than ever, more of us have freedom to care,
the freedom to connect,
the freedom to choose
the freedom to initiate
the freedom to do what matters,
If we choose.
It’s that choice part that I need to pay attention to and remind myself about. As Jana discusses in her post – you read it right? – being conscious of others is a choice, being part of a tribe is a choice, being involved is a choice
for most of us.
There are others, however, that don’t get to have those choices.
How do we support them? How do we make others aware of this fact? How do we get to the top of their pile?
And not just because it’s part of being an educator but because we have the freedom to care, connect, choose, initiate –
we have privilege.
Support – what does it mean to you?
Trying Things On
I have a confession.
I like to go shopping.
Yeah, it’s a bit weird but I like to wander around stores and look at what’s new. I use to enjoy going shopping with my girls when they were younger (and would let me go along!) Now, my boys and I sometimes just spend an afternoon wandering around and looking at different things.
Sometimes, I even try things on. Things don’t always fit like I think they will. My mind’s eye doesn’t always give me an accurate image of what things will look like once I actually try them on. Sometimes things that I did’t think would look that great look pretty good.
It’s like that with many things in life. We don’t know how things will really turn out until we overcome our fear and try them.
John Spencer’s latest post The Unintended Consequences of Doing Creative Work explores what happens when someone is working through the creative process.
More often than not, the unintended consequences are actually both negative and positive at the same time.
It’s neither all positive or all negative, unlike how we often imagine things working out – we tend to see things as either/or not a messy both.
It’s Scary – the Fear is Real
It’s is scary and difficult to try new things. We don’t know how they will turn out and we tend to imagine things that don’t happen – we convince ourselves that it’s not worth the risk. We talk ourselves out of trying something on because, well, we just know it won’t fit.
Average it out
Respect the status quo
Don’t even bother Seth Godin
This is spills over into the classroom. Instead of trying something different or giving students different options, we stick with what we know. It’s less scary. Our students learn that taking chances and trying things on is scary and, well, not really worth it. Yes, there are sometimes negatives that come along from trying things and being creative but, often, they aren’t what we think. The world does not end. In fact, if we are open to learning, we grow and develop from these experiences whether they are positive or negative.
Rejection Proof is one person’s experiment in learning to deal with rejection – in trying to things on that they were scared of doing. Jia Jing asks
What is this rejection? What is this monster that cripples us?
Try It On – It Just Might Fit
Trying things on is taking an opportunity to see how something might fit. It doesn’t always fit but sometimes things fit that we didn’t think would. And sometimes, things we thought would be great, well, just don’t turn out that way.
Often, we take someone along with us to get their opinion. We value the input of others. We get insights about how things look from a different perspective.
What if we did this in school? What if we asked someone else for their opinion as we try something new? What if we asked our students what they might think would fit?
Do we give them feedback after they try it or do we discourage them before they even try?
Your mindset and attitude influence your success. What’s yours?
I’d love to hear your comments and feedback so leave comment. Thanks for taking the time to read.
How often have you asked the question? What about “How are you doing?” or one similar? How often have you listened to the response?
In the hustle and bustle of the day, we’re all very busy and such conversations are sometimes fillers as we politely listen to a reply. And there are those people that we don’t ask, right? They tell us stories and problems that, really, we didn’t really intend to listen to when we asked the question.
As a parent and educator, I was often guilty of asking but not listening. Well, I “heard” what they said but I didn’t always listen to what they were saying. I would do it with my own children, asking them how their day was but only partly listening to what they were saying. We’re all busy, right?
Intent to listen. Do you even consider this?
As a school leader, I sometimes would get into “fix it” mode where I would listen with the intent to offer advice or a way to solve whatever problem being brought to me. In the busyness of the day, I would have my own thoughts/agenda running as background noise while I listened. It happens now, even though I am much more conscious of my need to listen with intent.
Learning to Quiet the Voices to Listen
One particular student helped me to understand how important it was to listen with the intent to understand. He wasn’t in trouble and he wasn’t bringing me a problem. He was just telling me about the song he was writing. And I might have missed it had he not said “Do you really want to hear this? I can tell you another time.”
I stopped. Did I? What were my choices? See, I hadn’t stopped what I was doing when he asked me. I had kept on doing what I was doing. So I stopped, put down my pen and listened. But instead of just listening, I gave him my attention and he gave me a wonderful gift – he shared his story of writing a song about our class – each person had a verse – all 31 and me. Then he sang it to me. As he proceeded to sing, I began to understand why he was always humming as he worked. Over time, I learned he would write songs to remember what we were doing and used these songs, humming them, as he wrote or did an exam. I had learned so much about him.
Although I learned something, I really didn’t learn to listen until my 4th daughter taught me. She had a speech impediment and, until she was about 6, hard a difficult time communicating. As a parent, I was often left frustrated by not being able to understand what she was saying. It took me a long time to learn to stop, quiet the rolling voices that were in the background and listen, not just with my ears but with my other senses as well.
That was the beginning but I’ve learned it’s a daily journey, one I must tend each day.
A daily journey.
It sometimes involves tears.
Some are mine.
Let People Know You Are In Relationship With Them
Schools are busy places. There is always something happening and a commotion somewhere. In all this busyness and happenings, how can one possibly listen to all that comes along? I struggled with this as an administrator – remember Fix-It mode? I also suffered from Pressing Issues syndrome, Tattling overload, Initiative fatigue, Reporting cramp, Teacher Frustration aches and No Dinner pangs at times. Listening wasn’t always easy – but it was absolutely necessary.
Letting people know you are listening means you need to commit to that relationship in the moment. Listening to a student tell me something isn’t really an efficient use of time. But it can’t be about efficiency – it has to be about effective as it relates to relationships. As leaders, it’s about sharing one of the greatest gifts you have – time.
As a parent, I learned that I needed to listen with all my senses in relationship with my daughter when she was telling me something. And it wasn’t just my one daughter. As a father of 8, it’s sometimes very busy when people get talking. My wife and I have often eaten cold suppers after all the stories have been told.
In silence. Listening to the smiles.
At times, when I was busy, I had to be honest with my children and ask them if they could tell me in a few moments. I’ve done this with students and teachers. It is important to enter into relationship with others as you listen and sometimes being honest with them and arranging another time is the right thing to do.
And if they say no?
that’s was always a cue that I needed to stop and listen because it was important.
Being In Relationship
In all the discussion about devices, communication, screen time, and distraction, it’s often portrayed that we only have “real” relationships when we are in a fact-to-face interaction. Yet, my experience is that it’s about the relationship of the people that is the important. A while back, I wrote
The point is that today, now, there are many different ways for us to connect as a family. I’ve learned not to compare the past with the present so much any more. Things are different and will be different. There are new things that challenge my worldview and previous assumptions and have made me change how I view and think about many things.
The point is not about the devices or technology but the relationships we have with people. Too often what becomes lost in these discussions is the space where each particular person is at
listening to reply – not understand
So, how are you today?
In a recent Switch and Shift article How Technology is Challenging the Human Side of Business, Pam Ross discusses her role in helping leaders bridge the technology/human relationship gap.
The thing is, technology impacts our workplaces and our culture like never before. To the same degree, it also provides ways to better connect, communicate and engage with your employees. I am excited to join Switch & Shift to write about how leaders can understand and use technology to create awesome culture and more human workplaces.
One of my main focuses has been the intersection of relationships and technology at the school level and in education in general so I was intrigued. Pam covers three topics in the post, We are always connected to work, We have the ability to work from anywhere, and We share our experiences fritionlessly. The same goes for students and teachers, which should come as no surprise. I recently read of two highschools that are experimenting with no substitute teachers when teachers are absent. In these schools, teachers have the option of not having a substitute teacher come in and, instead, having students work on their assignments in a common area.
Both districts said skipping substitutes is a natural extension of increased technology use. They’ve already been using online lessons in the classroom, and, in Farmington’s case, asking students to work on them from home on snow days. Why not try it when the teacher’s absent?
Both schools say a teacher is available to help students who need assistance.
The Human Side of Learning
In the examples above, what is important to note is that the human factor is still an important part of the equation. As someone who has been a proponent of relationships in schools, I believe that these are so important and cannot be replaced with technology. Instead of viewing technology in a binary This or That conflict with relationships, it needs to become part of an integrated system of learning where students can access information from anywhere but where other people – teachers/peers/experts – have a relationship that supports the student in their learning.
As Pam Ross states in her article:
The good news is that technology not only creates engagement challenges, it also creates huge opportunities to alleviate these challenges and to create more engaged and human workplaces.
There is a new form of literacy in the world of work. It’s what I call “Digital Fluency”, and is critical in today’s fast-paced, social and digital world. Digital Fluency is the ability to use technology to communicate, collaborate and connect with customers and coworkers, and the proclivity to learn and adopt new technologies to get work done.
A Focus on Digital Fluency
As Pam points out, there is a need to assist people in developing digital fluency. A recent article Digital Natives, Yet Strangers to the Web in The Atlantic by Alia Wong explored a similar issue. Students might be growing up with digital devices but they need guidance.
Indeed, although many of today’s teens are immersed in social media, that doesn’t mean “that they inherently have the knowledge or skills to make the most of their online experiences,” writes Danah Boyd in her 2014 book It’s Complicated: The Secret Lives of Networked Teens. Boyd, who works as a principal researcher at Microsoft Research, argues that “the rhetoric of ‘digital natives'” is dangerous because it distorts the realities of kids’ virtual lives, the result being that they don’t learn what they need to know about online living. In other words, it falsely assumes that today’s students intrinsically understand the nuanced ways in which technologies shape the human experience—how they influence an individual’s identity, for example, or how they advance and stymie social progress—as well as the means by which information spreads thanks to phenomena such as algorithms and advertising.
Part of issue is that many teachers continue to struggle with technology and the incorporation of technology. Although some schools and districts/division are incorporating a blended learning approach, the subject of digital fluency and the human side of technology is not usually discussed.
Portfolios and Body of Work
As an educator, I’ve been using portfolios for about 18 years. These began as simple folders where students would gather their best work to be used during Student Led Conferences. Since then I’ve been using a variation of portfolios with students as a way to help document their learning and growth. One of the most exciting turns was when I was able to shift to a digital format – first with wikis and then with various other platforms – that allowed students to included a variety of different formats – pictures, videos, drafts of writing, podcasts – allowing students to not just show a final product but to show their learning through stages.
Over time, I have begun to view portfolios as the next stage in the shift in learning. Students, working on a variety of topics, can build a portfolio of the work, from in school or out of school – A Body of Work – that grows as they progress in their learning. Teachers guide, support and challenge students to explore, helping student formulate significantly deeper and more complex questions to explore. It would also help students develop digital fluency – communicating, collaborate, connect, create, critique and collate – all as interactions with other people. As the article by Pam Ross shows, these are important skills.
Technology and relationships are not incompatible but until we shift how we view them working together to build stronger relationships, there will continue to be a deficit attributed so someone depending on which side of the argument you happen to stand.
Pearltrees is an online curation service that allows the user to store and share their own items, pictures, notes, writings and also collect and share items from the web.
Pearltrees, the place to organize all your interests, has gathered more than 2,2 million contributors, over 3 million monthly active users and 70 million items. In 2012, the company launched a 1.0 version and introduced a freemium business model that already generates significant revenue. Pearltrees has been featured multiple times by Apple, Google and Mozilla. Pearltrees apps on iOS and Android are consistently rated 5 stars and have been downloaded more than 2 million times. Press Release – September 23, 2015
In it’s most recent upgrade, Pearltrees added some great features that make organizing and sharing even easier. This new feature, Smartcloud, is “a set of features that lets people import and organize everything they’ve shared on social networks and stored on the web.”
As Lamothe, CEO and co-founder of Pearltrees comments: “With Smartcloud, you recover the memory of your life on the Internet. Each year, an average web user stores or shares several hundreds of contents that are buried in the depth of timelines. Now, with Pearltrees, web users can recover them and handle them. For massive imports, Pearltrees will automatically organize the users’ contents by topics and by collections. Now, everyone can have a visual organization of all their interests in one single place.”
Smartcloud is made up of three groups of features:
- Imports – Everyone can now recover their social networks’ history, the files of their cloud storage services and their search results. With a few clicks, you can add in Pearltrees hundreds or thousands of photos, tweets, Facebook posts, Drive or Dropbox files… Thanks to imports, Pearltrees becomes the living memory of your life on the Internet.
- The auto-organization – When imported contents are massive, the “Smartcloud” algorithm comes in and sorts them by topics and by dates. This automatic organization relies on two complementary sources: the millions of contents already organized by Pearltrees users and semantic links extracted from the web at large-scale. Thanks to this innovation, everyone can benefit from the collective intelligence of Pearltrees community and web users.
3. The instinctive organization – To add the last touch to your collections, you have to personalize them and re-organize them. For that, this new version offers contextually all the features of organization and personalization (collections moving, addition, edition…), according to current needs.
I’ve been using Pearltrees for about 3 years. It has evolved over time and has become the tool I use for archiving web clips, storing photos and sharing with others. Because it seamlessly works across devices, I am able to access my content from anywhere. As I organize items for #saskedchat, upload my own photos or share items with others, Pearltrees allows me to keep all things in one place and the ability to make collections and sort these collections is made even simpler through the drag and drop features. It also makes it easy to search for items because all things are located in one place, pictures, documents, videos, all stored in one place.
Pearltrees has a great offer for educators –
You’re a teacher and you’ve always been hesitant to use Pearltrees professionally? The offer we’re launching is made for you. It includes three plans, from free to premium, that each extends your educational uses of Pearltrees from creating lessons to presenting in classroom not to mention collaborating with students.
As an educator, being able to put pictures and webpages into a presentation allows for easy organization. “The first use of Pearltrees is to show Pearltrees collections in class. The free Assistant plan, exclusively for teachers, allows content presentation with its clean, advertising-free interface. ” If you looking for ideas and ways of sharing with students, Pearltrees has a great Resource page for teachers. I’ve created a short screencast to show some of the different features found in Pearltrees. If you have any questions or would like some assistance, don’t hesitate to contact me through the blog or @kwhobbes on twitter.
It was another amazing #saskedchat tonight. Dave Burgess dropped by at the start of the chat to get things going. @MrALongstaff and @brettReis then took over and guided the #saskedchat ship through a great chat focused on Teach Like a Pirate. The participants had some great ideas and suggestions for building relationships with students in order to develop rapport and trust. Take a look through the archive for some great resources and fantastic ideas!
It takes a great deal of hard work and support for people to venture forth and try new things. In my last post I discussed my own experiences with rejection in light of the work done by Jia Jiang and The 100 Days of Rejection. In his vlog, Jia post videos of his encounters with rejection. The entry on day 3 is quite amazing. In this encounter, Jia asks the manager, Jackie, of Krispy Kreme to make a set of doughnuts in the shape of the Olympic rings expecting to be rejected. Instead, she goes to work and fulfills his request. Take a moment to watch the clip.
Jia Jiang, in his interview with Jeff Brown on ReadtoLead podcast states that this encounter made him wonder how many opportunities he had missed because of his fear. How often do we pass on asking, trying, doing, seeing because of our own fear?
Fear Keeps Us from Exploring
In Multipliers Lis Wiseman explores how certain people, whom she calls Multipliers, get more from the people around them, multiplying the effect of their efforts.
They don’t see a world where just a few people deserve to do the thinking; Multipliers see intelligence as continually developing. This observation is consistent with what Dweck calls a “growth mindset,” which is a belief that basic qualities like intelligence and ability can be cultivate through effort. They assume: people are smart and will figure it out. They see their organization as full of talented people who are capable of contributing at much higher levels.
Yet most people end up not using most of their capabilities, stuck in a situation where their talent is not being used to its full capacity, they are unhappy with what they are doing but fear making a change to do something else. In a recent study Gallup Study, 63% of employees were disengaged in their workplace. This has many implications
People spend a substantial part of their lives working, whether in a high-tech startup in Singapore, a financial institution in Australia, or a garment factory in the Dominican Republic. As a result, the quality of their workplace experience is inevitably reflected in the quality of their lives. Gallup’s finding that the vast majority of employees worldwide report an overall negative experience at work — and just one in eight are fully involved in and enthusiastic about their jobs — is important when considering why the global recovery remains sluggish, while social unrest abounds in many countries.
There are many reasons given for this happening in the workplace with a number of different ideas of how to address the situation. Similarly, recent studies of teachers showed that up to 70% of teachers are not engaged at their work while studies of students show a significant portion of students in high school are disengaged. It would appear we have an engagement problem that spans more than just students in schools – it is impacting all aspects of society.
I often hear that if teachers were to employ particular strategies or methods or tools, they would be able to engage their students more fully in the learning experience. As the list below shows, there is plenty of advice on how to engage students in the classroom!
These are just a sampling of the articles about engaging students.
Student engagement is a major topic of discussion on twitter with a number of chats dedicated to this topic. From my PLN @MrH and @MrEhRon are leading #2k15reads, exploring Learn Like a Pirate by Paul Solarz and Pure Genius by Don Wettrick this summer.
It’s a hard to accept.
According to Jia Jiang and his work on rejection, it touches us deep inside and causes pain that is equivalent to being struck, like a slap in the face.
Most of us get the advice to make a plan for our success. 1 year, 3 year, 5 year, 10 year. Each year we are suppose to revise, reflect, make adjustment and move on. But what if our plan runs into the Rejection Roadblock?
What does Rejection do?
I heard about Jia Jiang’s 100 Days of Rejection story through Todd Henry’s Accidental Creative Podcast episode Confronting Rejection In Life and Work. Later, I listened to Jiang’s interview with Jeff Brown on The ReadToLead podcast. In both interviews, Jiang describes how his fear of rejection almost paralyzed him from going out and chasing his dream of being an entrepreneur and how his wife really pushed him to not quit but keep going. In the 100 Days of Rejection, Jia purposefully seeks out rejection in order to become better at dealing with it.
Rejection as Learning and Change
“Sorry, but you’re just not what we’re looking for.”
In a four year span I heard that phrase, or something similar, over 30 times in my attempt to obtain a central office position. Yeah, that’s a lot of interviews and most people when they hear that comment
“Why keep trying?”
I also believe most people think “What’s wrong with this guy? There must be something wrong with him.”
That’s what I began to think too! There must be something wrong with me.
This is exactly what Jia says we do with rejection, we make it about us when it really isn’t, it’s about the other person. I recommend you listen to the interviews and check out the website.
The first couple of times I heard that I had been rejected it was really, really hard. At one point I decided that I wasn’t going to try any more, rationalizing that I didn’t have the skills or ability for such work. Compounding this was my battle with depression into which I would plunge after each attempt. I knew I wanted to do something different but was getting nowhere. Climbing out of depression became harder and harder.
Like Jiang, my wife supported me and encouraged me to continue. Without her love and insistence, I wouldn’t have faced my fear of depression and sought help. Eventually I tried again, only to meet more rejection. I began to wonder what was happening during the interviews. Was it something I was doing? Was it my answers? My experience? My suit? What? I began to ask for feedback. What where two or three things that I could do that would help. I received some great feedback at times. Others times, not so much.
As Jia Jiang points out, we take these rejections as affronts to us as individuals and, usually, we try to avoid such pain, avoiding any chance that we’ll be rejected. As I did more interviews and went through the process it helped me to become much more reflective and honest about my own strengths and weaknesses but, more importantly, what I really wanted to do. I came to realize that, in fact, it was time to do something different.
Maybe’s It’s Time to Quit
Stephen Dubner and Steven Levitt book, Freakonomics, is an interesting mix of economics and seemingly miscellaneous and unconnected phenomenon. Their podcast – Freakonomics Radio – hosted by Stephen Dubner, is a continuation of this exploration. The Upside of Quitting explores why people will stay in a job even though they don’t like it and why people who seemingly have a great job quit. They examine whether “Quitters never win and winners never quit” is really a good thing to be telling people when it comes to a job, if quitting just might be a good strategic choice and a good plan, and most importantly, how our past investments keep us where we are.
To help us understand quitting, we look at a couple of key economic concepts in this episode: sunk cost and opportunity cost. Sunk cost is about the past – it’s the time or money or sweat equity you’ve put into a job or relationship or a project, and which makes quitting hard. Opportunity cost is about the future. It means that for every hour or dollar you spend on one thing, you’re giving up the opportunity to spend that hour or dollar on something else – something that might make your life better. If only you weren’t so worried about the sunk cost. If only you could …. quit.
For me, having put a great deal of time and effort into the sunk costs for education, I didn’t think there were any other options for me. However, over time I realized that all I was doing was limiting myself if I continue to knock at only one door. Through a series of events, I found myself in a position where I decided I needed to give myself a push to make change. So, on May 4th, 2013 I sent in my resignation even though I had no other job nor was I certain what was to come. Instead, I was going with the “gut feeling” that such a move was going to be the beginning of a new and wonderful adventure.
Quitting isn’t for everyone but it is for some people. Too often, as both Jiang and Dubner point out, we limit ourselves because we are afraid of rejection, of failing, of looking to other options and not trying. We are afraid of people saying to us
“Why would you do such a thing? I could never do that, it’s too risky. What about you pension?
Like so many, I was working in order to put in time so that at some date in the future I could retire and start living and doing the things I wanted to do. By stepping out of the rut, I pushed myself to look at life and what I was doing from a new perspective.
It’s Not Easy to Fail
I imagine many people have seen different versions of this. Or heard that schools and teachers need to be risk takers and innovators in environments of trust and safety. It’s easy to say –
“Take risks. Fail fast. Be innovative”
It’s completely another to actually take risks, “fail forward” or innovate. That’s hard. Really hard. Harder than most people will let on.
Seth Godin in Icarus Deception discusses how our Lizard Brain, that portion of the brain that developed for survival, is still keeping us from taking risks because risks are scary, lead to failure and failure leads to pain which is to be avoided. It’s easy to say we need to take risks and be risk takers but, in reality, many people would rather stay in a situation that was not doing them any good rather than venture into the unknown and change. Recent studies show that approximately 60% of employees worldwide are disengaged from their work but many stay where they are rather than make a big change. Like Jia Jiang, fear keeps many people from striking out on their own or taking risks. In a society where playing it safe is the norm and taking chances is for a few select who are brave enough , suggesting that schools, places that have traditionally been slow to change and embrace innovation, do an sudden about face and becomes places of innovation, experimentation and embrace failure as learning is a tall order.
Yes, there are teachers who will embrace these concepts and a few schools will begin to blaze a trail of their own but without a titanic shift in the worldview of parents, many who are reluctant to allow their children to face too many negative experiences in their childhood, schools are in tough.
Tell A Different Story
If we want schools to be places of innovation, risk-taking, and experimentation where “fail forward” (whatever that actually means) is acceptable for students and teachers, then the stories of school must change. The current hierarchical system inhibits people who are innovators and risk-takers, both students and teachers, through policies of conforming and norming. If our stories are still similar to what they have always been about learning and school, how can things be much different?
My experience is that most teachers were pretty good students. The story that comes from school is very similar to what it has always been, to what the story was for them as students. As someone who hasn’t had that story, even my story as a teacher wasn’t similar to other teachers. Is it possible to change this story?
…. how we can change the story that is told about learning that will embrace risk, failure and change?
….. if people who call for more risk and change fully understand what they are asking of people in schools?
….. if we don’t change the story we tell about learning whether innovation and risk-taking can ever be part of a majority of schools?
…. if people who ask others to be risk-takers and change agents have ever faced their fears of rejection or know what it takes to step boldly to the edge of possibility and look around?