Change or Die!

A scary premise - but a thought provoking one. I just finished this book by Alan Deutschman which begins:

"What if you were given that choice? For real. What if it weren't just the hyperbolic rhetoric that conflates corporate perfomrance with life or death? Not the overblown exhortations of a rabid boss, or a maniacal coach, or a slick motivational speaker, or a self-dramatizing chief executive officer or political leader. We're talking actual life or death now. Your own life and death. What if a well-informed, trusted authority figure said you had to make difficult and enduring changes in the way you think, act, feel, and act? If you didn't, your time would end soon - a lot sooner than it had to. Could you change when change really mattered? When it mattered most?"

Now - aside from having an extremely powerful lead that will make its way into many of my writing workshops - the entire book caused me to actually stop, put it down, and THINK about change. So - it took me longer to read than some other books I have picked up lately.

The author indiates that there are three "keys" to change:
1. Relate - you form a new, emotional relationship with a person or community that inspires and sustains hope.

2. Repeat - the new relationship helps you learn, practice, and master the new habits and skills you'll need.

3. Reframe - the new relationship helps you learn new ways of thinking about your situation and your life.

Now - before I lead you astray, let me warn you that there is one, itsy-bitsy piece of this book that directly relates to education. Instead - I found myself reframing the contents of the book to my experiences in education to test the "keys." But I found that in the instances when I have made a real change to my practice, the keys absolutely hold true.

Let's take my adventures into Web 2.0 tools. Summer 2006, I was a participant the High School's New Face conference put on by our regional BOCES. While I was a participant in the Engaging Students strand with Richard Strong and Harvey Silver, we also had the opportunity to have Will Richardson share his experiences at keynote speeches. Meeting and learning from these folks for three days in a retreat-like setting created the new relationship for me. We are not on a first name basis but hearing these folks speak and being able to interact with them and reflect upon my work and practice created that emotional relationship that provided me with hope again - that I really could make a difference. (If you doubt this - ask my colleagues who had to suffer through some pretty emotional bouts in the weeks following the conference.)

After that - I began to investigate the use of blogs and wikis as ways to engage teachers so that they, in turn, could engage their students. Many of the lessons from Richard and Harvey found their way into the tools that were shared by Will. I began to reach out and read other blogs, to cautiously post on the blogs of others, to share my thoughts and practice with teachers. It has been over a year now - and I can honestly say that my practice has changed to the point where I immediately see Web 2.0 connections to practice when I learn something new.

This has caused me to reframe my personal thoughts about learning and about building community. I work hard to share what I have created in the hopes of creating that same type of relationship with others. I think differently about the workshops that I offer and how they are developed. I am constantly driven by the question of what this means in educating our students for the new, flatter world and how it can be used to help build connections. Most importantly, it has helped me to find a personal center and to work to develop my writing skills.

I could think back upon my introduction to Communities for Learning (formerly known as CSETL) as another example of change in my practice that has followed the three keys. And my decision to no longer practice law and enter education. And the first time that I lost weight and became really, truly, physically fit (which has caused me to think about what I need to do differently to once again lose weight!) The keys make sense to me.

Which now leads me to these questions: If I am a teacher/leaders who wants to create the conditions for change, what am I doing to create relationships that inspire and sustain hope? How am I providing opportunities for others to learn and practice the skills they need? How I have supported others who are seeking to "reframe?"

No comments: