In Simon Sinek’s book “Start With Why”, I came to change my perspective on how to think about, act upon and stimulate the education revolution. The book’s core concept has re-defined my thinking.
The common precept of the book is the “Golden Circle” of leadership which define the three principle ways we think about what it is we do and the order in which we think them. He connects the nature of the golden circle to the biology of the brain.
Essentially, he argues that we tend to start by defining WHAT it is we do, then HOW we do it and finishing with WHY we do what we do. He uses various examples to show how success is often garnered by those who think about things in the opposite direction. The have a clear understanding of WHY they do something, which drives HOW they do it and WHAT exactly they do. The concept is quite clear when put into an educational context.
From teachers to students, we engage in the activities of school, professional development and community in various degrees, however, whenever we hit a difficult patch we can revert to one of those questions. The clearer our understanding of WHY we are doing something, the easier it is to proceed.
Just this week a colleague of mine was having a stressful time. She was feeling over-extended in the various activities she was involved in and was becoming disheartened in the process. Her thought pattern was to bail on one of the activities that made her most frustrated. However, while in discussion we came around to why she had signed up, why she was doing it. With this her answer was clear, “I wanted to help give students an opportunity to be involved and to follow their passions.” Once the statement was clear, she gladly was re-committed.
Sinek also provides some helpful quotes about the nature of education and how we resolve issues, one quote outlines quite clearly my apprehension with the over-use of data in education and its connection with standardized testing and grades.
“We understand that even with mountains of data and good advice, if things don’t go as expected, it’s probably because we missed one, sometimes small but vital detail. In these cases, we go back to all our sources, maybe seek out some new ones, and try to figure out what to do, and the whole process begins again. More data, however, doesn’t always help, especially if a flawed assumption set the whole process in motion in the first place.”
The outline for a teacher is to constantly be reviewing what is taking place in the classroom under the pretext of WHY, HOW and WHAT. If students are given the WHY as the key ingeredient and it is clear, they will buy in if it aligns with their WHY. In the same breath, if the WHY does not align with their thinking they will disengage. I think that this ultimately connects to our requisite search for authenticity in learning. When something is authentically learned, the WHY can clearly be defined.
The next step is to be disciplined in HOW we approach the lesson and our belief. The final piece is the consistency of WHAT we do.
As Sinek states, “The only way people will know what you believe (Why) is by the things you say and do, and if you’re not consistent in the things you say and do, no one will know what you believe.”
In the perspective of a student, if a student learns for achievement (which is to say that we manipulate her WHY into things like grades, or scholarships, or the like), then she will stop once she’s reached it. Her learning will cease to be important. However, if we can help frame her learning into her belief (WHY) of school, she will never quit learning and it will become less important HOW she is learning and WHAT she is learning as those will be ever-changing, based on her passions.
Essentially, we as teachers need to talk more consistently about WHY we are doing what we are doing. We have to stop defining ourselves by WHAT we do, and rather frame the work by the WHY.
This frames education in a more meaningful, profound way and scrutinizes more appropriately the teaching profession.
The conversations we have too often talk about WHAT we do in class, HOW the technology is going to improve learning, WHAT students are doing to push the boundaries. Instead, we should be asking WHY.
This book has had a profound impact on me, I believe it to be an essential mind shift for teachers.
It is up to our leaders in education to clearly define the WHY of the system, when we clarify our belief about education, our actions of HOW and WHAT we do to make that happen should essentially improve.
These are some initial thoughts. I continue to reflect on the impact of the book.
There is a fine line between being a co-learner with our students and being a professional educator. I draw that line very clearly.
In a great conversation with a colleague today, we talked about how the lines may be considered blurred whenever we frame a classroom as a community of learners where I am a co-learner. A distinction between my role and that of the student is still clear in my mind. It doesn’t mean a slackening of expectations on the teacher. I suggest it is the opposite.
I think to build that community it is a respect for the profession that is needed. An educating, thoughtful, approach to the role of the teacher is absolutely needed. Teacher accountability is paramount. As is student accountability. The thing is, the latter looks different then detentions and zeros on assignments.
I think that a refocus on a respect for the profession is where the shift is taking us. Being a co-learner changes the relationship between student and teacher, but does not change the underlying belief that a professionalism is essential.
This blog entry is a bit scattered, I recognize it. These were a few scattered thoughts after a great conversation with a colleague.
In the hallways, classrooms, cafeteria, I hear students begging for change. They don’t express it in pithy slogans, they don’t YouTube it like some edubloggers think, instead they check out. They ‘disengage’. They call school “boring.” They shoot for 50% in a course. They skip class. These are teenagers asking for reform, for change, for a chance to escape the confines of forced servitude.
These are the students who can’t figure a way to fit into our student model. The student who sits, listens, completes, celebrates, in incredibly linear terms.
I agree with Sir Ken Robinson when he states that “reform is not enough.” The change that is necessary is major. The change that is needed is a “revolution.”
The revolution is systemic, no doubt about it. We need to change the structure of our entire understanding of school. It needs to be complete and utterly transformative. But it doesn’t start with the trustees or the superintendents.
It starts with teachers and students. It starts with open conversations between colleagues, it starts with open conversations with students. We need to remove the blindfold of expectations, curriculum, assessment, and learning. We need to re-focus what school is for: not to prepare someone for university or college, but to prepare them for a life as a learner.
Today, on the Day of Blogging for Real Education Reform, I will not only write to the wind and send this out to people who read blogs, who consider reform necessary, but I’ll start and continue those conversations. I’ll keep conversing with my students. I’ll remember that today is yet another day of learning, exploration and inquiry.
Today is a day when the revolution continues to move.
Headline. News. There is a difference.
I love TED talks. I subscribe to the TED talks podcast where I am given a new one each weekday. I specifically love Ken Robinson’s TED talks. I thoroughly enjoyed Dan Pink’s TED talk. I think Dan Ariely’s TED talk provides us with a great glimpse into our decisions. There are many other TED talks that absolutely are relevant, connected and challenging for education.
The problem is too many people (educators) are stopping there. Having someone talk for 18 minutes about their research, findings and ideas in not enough to fully understand them.
Don’t just read the headline. Read the whole book.
Sorry, little rant.
I am a road worker. Each student is driving their car. Follow the metaphor…
Students are driving down the road of their lives. I try to make the road ahead of them as drive-able as possible. Sometimes that means tearing it right up to the foundation. Sometimes that means just re-covering the surface. Sometimes, I’m going to be the guy with the sign saying slow down. And at times, I’m going to be offering them a detour. I want that road to be open and drive-able every day.
As the road worker, I’m trying every day to make sure they never face a road block. Despite the many that others try to put up. I’ll never step into the driver’s seat and steer the wheel because I know the direction is not my job. My only concern is that no matter where they go and when they get there, their drive is smooth. And that they continue to drive.
Some come with souped up engines, while others drive k-cars. If I’ve done my job well, it shouldn’t really matter.
I want them to turn up the radio, tap their hands on the wheel as they drive and see the world rolled out in front of them.
I hope my students can open the engine and drive free.
A reading about the growing trend of unschooling.The next question is, “How do we embrace the positive aspects of unschooling and integrate them into a public education system? What is our next step?”Imagine, a classroom that is driven by curiosity, student initiative and experiential learning. That, is a classroom that works.
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