Passion and Wants vs. Needs

May 23, 2010 at 11:12 am | Posted in Collaboration, Learning is Messy, Links, Planning, Professional Development, Shift | 5 Comments

Here’s a scenario you may be able to relate to: you read an article or book or just observe a daily event and then you get a great idea that addresses something in your life or work you want to change or resolve. Well I sit with the idea for a little bit and then I want to share it! Sometimes I share and the person gets it right away and wants to join me to develop the idea further. More often, the reaction is not negative but there are questions, What do you mean about this aspect? How does it look in action? and so on. Here is where the generator of the passionate idea can do one of two things. She can be discouraged because she feels the recipient didn’t understand or they don’t like the idea, if they had they would be equally excited. Or, she can take those questions and continue to work on the idea so it can become more fully developed and realistic and also better communicated.

As an elementary teacher, I have “taught” Wants vs. Needs as part of the social studies curriculum (although there are informal lessons on that every day.) As a technology integration specialist the last 3 years, I have needed to develop my adult communication and presentation skills because I currently work with teachers more than students. My apologies in advance, but children are more fun, flexible-minded and enthusiastic than adults. As a result of this experience, I’m going to be a stronger teacher next year, but I will also be a better colleague.

Teachers tend to do their own thing and each teacher becomes known according to her/his own passions and strengths, but this is unfair to the student population because it creates an environment of inequality. Ideally, teachers share their talents, strengths and special views to strengthen the whole school so all children benefit. I’m not faulting teachers, there is usually no time for sharing and there are other built-in school practices that discourage collaboration.

Strafford School Foreign Language committee (most of us)

Many of my proudest contributions as a teacher in realizing initiatives that benefited all students and that are still in effect at the school, have resulted from working with a group of like-minded teachers, administrators and parents. But that group is not often easily or naturally created. If you don’t have a group form naturally around an idea, you are left to drop the idea or keep it to yourself within the four walls of your classroom. But there’s a third alternative, it’s not easy and involves risk and possibly putting yourself out on a ledge.

Last week I read a post by Peggy George on her blog My Web2.0 Adventures.  It was a tipping point for me. Peggy lays out steps to develop an idea before pushing it out. (If it’a been a snake, it’a bit me.) How many times could I have been more effective if only I had sat with my ideas a bit longer, worked longer with the pros and cons to further develop and then communicate an idea better? Marco Torres says that we need to “stay with the questions” and that also means stay with the solutions to get it right.

Also, while I haven’t read it yet, I have listened to Seth Godin share ideas from his new book, Linchpin. From listening to Godin, I began to explore the idea of going above and beyond the initial ideas (what I want to do) to ask what is needed- and to push into those initial ideas to develop them into ideas and practices that can be clearly communicated.

What we want is unconditional acceptance and excitement about our ideas and initiatives but what we need is to question, incubate and develop those ideas further. When met with resistance, stay with the idea (if it still looks like a good one) and develop it so you can communicate why it’s a good path to follow and build a group that will allow the ideas to become a reality.

Other links that inspired this post:
Shelly Terrell’s blog Teacher Reboot Camp post How do we nurture passion?
Another video of Seth Godin speaking about Linchpin
Video: Seth Godin speaking about Education
Daniel Pink’s 2 questions that can change your life
Rolling Stones, “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” (And if you try sometime you find you get what you need)

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5 Comments »

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  1. I do believe collaboration would help. Many teachers express stress due to burdens from the education system. I think the education system has to stop focusing on the results of standardized tests and instead concentrate on getting passionate teachers. I believe the education systems worldwide have lost the focus and this need to have students with the best test scores is forcing students and teachers to lose passion for learning.

    • Yes I totally agree about testing- it’s taking time away from relevant learning experiences and sucking the life out of teachers and students both. Having passionate, innovative teachers on board from the start is key as well so you aren’t spending valuable time trying to motivate more traditional teachers to move ahead.

  2. Thank you for this post. It reminds me as an administratator that I need to let my ideas simmer before I inflict them on my teachers. I worry though about the pace of change in schools that can make glaciers appear hurried and whether more patience might bring some things grinding to a halt. Do you think it could ever be better to run with something and work out the details as you go?

    • Thanks for your comments. Yes, I can remember times as part of a group where we were developing ideas as we implemented them. The key in those successful situations was a group of like-minded, passionate educators. If there are enough on board and excited about an idea or initiative, you can fly with it. I guess I see the deeper initial planning as a means to get more people on board, then you can alter the original plan as it’s implemented.

  3. This is really great and a timely reminder. Have you read “Becoming a Critically Reflective Teacher” by Stephen Brookfield? It sounds like you have. If not it is a good read and it supports some of your insights and experiences shared here.


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