Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Choice Not Chance

Another school year has arrived and with it comes the optimism of a fresh start and the promise of many positive outcomes. While our energy reserves are high after a period of rest and recharge, the true measure of a successful school year resides in how we feel at the end of the school year. While I will always expect that educators “leave it all in the classroom”, I would not want to see anyone struggling to make it to the end of the year physically and mentally worn. There’s a big difference between positive and healthy tiredness and sheer exhaustion. How, then, do we ensure the former?

My guiding light in education over the bulk of my career has been Wayne Hulley. His emphasis on the power of relationship and the connections we make has always resonated with me. He advocates a model that he simply terms See-Do-Get.  In this cycle, how we see things - our belief systems, habits and culture – determines what we do. As a result of the things we do, we get the results we deserve. If you are after meaningful change you must first see things in a new way and then do something different that will lead to altered and hopefully, improved, results. I can’t help but see the world through this lens, which compels me to own the results I currently am getting.

A recent example occurred as I was in the midst of another road trip that took me through Phoenix. For those familiar with the area, you are likely aware of the dust storms that occasionally kick up. Called haboobs, they are a spectacle to behold. As we were coming in to land our pilot directed our attention to such a storm brewing in the distance. At the time we did not realize how quickly it would close in. Waiting in the terminal for my next flight, I sat by the window so I could watch the planes. I noticed the wind picking up and a brown cloud emerging. In a matter of two minutes the entire airport was enveloped in dust (http://www.csmonitor.com/Science/2013/0827/Phoenix-haboob-massive-dust-storm-rolls-into-Arizona). For many of us, this was a fascinating experience. Our “See” led us to take numerous pictures and video (our “Do”) and what we got was a sense of camaraderie as we remarked about the event unfolding and agreed to swap our best photos. However, not everyone had the same “See” and one passenger in particular became quite irate and was directing his frustration at the counter agent with an expectation that she could stop the storm, get the boarding process complete, and ensure departure as he “had places to be”. His “See” denied him a wonderful visual experience, an opportunity to connect with others, and a “Get” that was now more negative than anyone else’s. We all boarded our flight 90 minutes late but most were still talking about the unique event. His anger left him unable to take that in.

With the onset of the school year, what will your “See” be? Will you start the year off with carryover from last year about certain students? About kids in general? Will you long for the good old days and the kids you used to have? Will your focus be on all of the negative externals? Or will you look at every student as a success story waiting to be told? Will you enter the year with a focus to make this the best experience for your students and yourself? It’s not about being a Pollyanna or na├»ve to the challenges that being an educator entails. It is about exercising choice and not leaving things to chance. Your students this year deserve the best teacher you can be. You deserve the best year of your career. It all starts with what you choose to see.

As an aside, many of you who have taken advantage of Wayne Hulley’s wisdom over the years may be aware of a great opportunity to do just that at his inaugural Hulley Centre Conference in October (http://www.solution-tree.com/authors/wayne-hulley/building-better-schools-together-cfn153.html). Three days of very practical work with the focus of building better schools together. The work is truly derived from his passion to see every student reach their potential and every adult play a significant role in making that happen. I’ll be there and look forward to connecting with you then.