Facebook and, I imagine, Twitter exploded today with the news of Robin Williams’ death. I found myself touched more than with other celebrity deaths. Rumours, still rumours, say that it was at his own hand. That depression was a factor. It’s public knowledge that he had problems with drugs.
I did not know the man other than through his brilliant performances. But all of that – possible depression, struggles with addiction, and constant performance – make me think of some of the students I have had the great pleasure of meeting over the years. Students who always seem to take up too much space in a room. There’s a reason for it. The more space you take up, the farther you can keep people away.
It’s easier to build strong children than rebuild broken men, or something like that.
As teachers, as people, we are humanely obligated to build strong children. It’s part of a continual process of creating hope for the future.
I hold on to that hope.
I have been thinking a lot about the role that conflict plays in making change. Change would not happen if they were no conflict. Great change happens because of conflicting opinions, of challenges, and of a questioning of principles. I believe that conflict can allow us to create beautiful things together. Margaret Heffernen calls this love because the kind of investment needed to challenge, defend, answer, seek, and finally change requires infinite care.
She dares us to collaborate through constructive conflict.
She points out that most organizations can not think because the people inside of them are afraid of conflict. 85% of them.
I recently had a conversation where I likened an organization to a learning brain. We know that learning can not happen when strong emotion is present. Why would it be different for organizational learning?
So it takes courage.
“The fact is that most of the biggest catastrophes that we’ve witnessed rarely come from information that is secret or hidden. It comes from information that is freely available and out there, but that we are willfully blind to, because we can’t handle, don’t want to handle, the conflict that it provokes. But when we dare to break that silence, or when we dare to see, and we create conflict, we enable ourselves and the people around us to do our very best thinking.”
when we dare to break that silence, or when we dare to see, and we create conflict, we enable ourselves and the people around us to do our very best thinking
Daring. Creating. Enabling. Thinking. Amen.
Margaret Heffernen’s views came from Dare to Disagree, yet another TED talk.
Andrew Stanton’s line, “The greatest story commandment is: Make me care.” stopped me in my tracks when I first heard it almost a year ago.
I was on my way to working with a couple of teachers in another area of Quebec and had a long drive ahead of me, so I plugged in my phone and listened to a podcast I had been saving for just such an opportunity – from NPRs TED Radio Hour, Framing the Story. Listen to it to hear what Andrew says about storytelling.
Grant Wiggins writes:
…a course must seem coherent and meaningful from the learner’s perspective. There must be a narrative, if you will; there must be a throughline; there must be engaging and stimulating inquiries and performances that provide direction, priorities, and incentives. (What is a course?)
This is true at any level, in any industry. Whether working with students or professionals – learning will happen, learning will be meaningful – when I care about the story you have to tell and can fold it into my own.
Make me care – say all learners to all teachers.
When they are skipping class, doing the minimum to pass, avoiding work, avoiding professional development opportunities – somehow we have not made our material something they care about. Sometimes it is beyond our control – other stories in their lives have prominence.
For me, I strive to make you care about what I have to teach.
The truth about stories are that that’s what we are ~ Thomas King
(Oh – and to my students – you don’t need to make me care. I already do.)
The other night, while so much of the world was busy counting medals a man was not convicted of murder for killing a 17-yr old boy who was listening to loud music in his car with his friends in front of a convenience store in Florida.
That boy could have been any one of my students.
Jordan Davis could have been my son. He could have been yours.
What angers me so much was that this was not a tragic accident.
His 47 year old killer shot 10 shots at a parked car because he felt threatened by the boys who were listening to loud “thug” music inside.
Yeah. And a jury could not reach a verdict. They could not unanimously decide that when a white man shoots a black teenaged boy that it is murder.
Think about this and be angry. And be sad. (If you are a teacher or in any other position of influence, I hope you do more than just think)
Be Angry. Be Sad. The sadness keeps us human and connected. The anger may drive that sadness to do something.
(Just don’t play any loud music on that drive. Especially not if you are a young man of colour.)