Striving for the Wisdom to Know the Difference

Each week (on Tuesdays around 7pm), I look forward to tuning into #edchat on Twitter, where educators around the world get together to “put their thoughts out there” on a common topic.  Tonight’s #edchat topic: “Where should we place our efforts for educational reform? What is most/least important?”  As much as I look forward to sharing my thoughts, I feel most interested in the opportunity to learn from what I hear – my intention is usually to take these tweeters’ disparate 140-character snippets and listen for the trends that emerge so as to help me learn.

Unfortunately, I left tonight’s #edchat feeling angry and frustrated, my back and shoulders tied in knots.  I had spent 2+ hours considering a myriad of posts that all addressed a different aspect of ed reform, most often focused on blaming ‘those responsible’ for propagating such a system.  Meanwhile, I spent my time with responses that kept a pretty common theme (edited to remove names & abbreviations in cases other than re-tweets):

  • I took poetic license to make an I-statement RT @spedteacher: If students don’t pay attention, I must stop blaming them & start looking at what I’m doing
  • It’s the only place to start- the only thing I have the power to change is me. 😉
  • We are ‘them.’ We are a part of the system. If I wish the system to change, how will I change?…In other words, what will I do tomorrow as a response to what I’ve learned today?
  • RT @pvil One big change is a teacher’s change- from shepherd to browser, from area specialist to education specialist
  • It makes me think- “if not everyone spends time changing and adjusting from what they learn, and I feel as if it is a problem that they do not make this a habit, then what will I do differently tomorrow?”
  • I agree, and note that changing how we view ourselves is not just the quickest way to reform, it’s the only way…as we are all members of the ed system. All each of us can change is our own response to our surroundings…with the hope that each change we undergo evokes an opportunity for a different response by those around us.

Exasperated at the discrepancy I felt between my own philosophy and that which I was hearing, I finally put down TweetDeck and took a moment to reflect in my now infamous Moleskine (my 4th since starting this job last June), writing a short narrative that in retrospect reminds me in concept of the Serenity Prayer: 

“I cannot change others.  I can only change my response to my environment.  If I don’t see the environment I wish to see, I must ask, ‘What in my response am I willing to change, and how do I think that change might affect my environment?’ If I decide that I am not willing to make that change in my own response, how do I let go?”

The irony of my frustration hit me like a ton of bricks, and simultaneously released the tension in my shoulders and back: I had to let go of my frustration in trying to change others’ thinking, shut down the computer for the night, and decide on a new response tomorrow.  

Sometimes, maybe we should all apply our own advice to others to our own practice…I bet we would get some interesting ideas for next steps.

2 thoughts on “Striving for the Wisdom to Know the Difference

  1. Series of tweets by @mrsbrownmusic from Weds, Apr 7th 730am:"After reading some of #edchat last night, I’m going to start reform by contacting my Tech person to set up a taping of my teaching…I’ve known I should tape myself and watch for awhile, just haven’t taken the time. It’s past time to start that process!I sent an email to our tech person right after I sent that tweet. Knew I’d put it off if I didn’t! 🙂 "

  2. An e-mail from Matt Landahl (@mlandahl), Weds Apr 7th, 9:23am:Tony, This is a great post and sums up much of my thinking of the past few years. We seem to spend inordinate amounts of time in administration and/or education trying to change people’s thinking & actions, and not our own. I think Kegan’s Immunities to Change really get at that, as does Stephen Covey’s work on the 8th habit. Both of these thinkers (I am sure there are many others) really get at helping people to be self-reflective by owning their own thinking and beliefs. That is, again like you said, the only thing we have any sort of control over. Look even to our meeting times together as a leadership team, and how rare it is to spend time engaging in any sort of reflective process about our own behavior/actions….which leads me to twitter. I’m more of a ‘lurker’ on twitter, usually staying out of the conversation. But I wonder as I lurk, is it really helping people be more reflective, or does it serve as some sort of ‘echo chamber’ that gets us together with others who are like-minded? I do see its value in sharing resources and connecting people, but all of the time that so many spend on twitter could be spent talking/conversing with people ‘in the trenches’ who may need a partner in the reflective process.So anyway, your blog has inspired me to put down some of my thoughts on my blog ( ) in the next couple of days, if I can take any more breaks from my dissertation….keep writing in the moleskin! Matt

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