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.

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