Here are a few semi-random thoughts that were generated by this talk. I’m not saying that he’s necessarily right about everything, but he raises some interesting questions that are worth thinking about.
What do I do for a living? Seems like a simple question, but – as Seth Godin points out – perhaps it’s not. I used to answer, “I’m a math teacher” or “I teach math.” Over time that shifted to “I teach students math” and then simply “I teach students.” But I find myself agreeing with him that perhaps that’s too “narrow” of a definition of what we in education try to do: we try to change everything.
Every day we should at least try to step on that light bulb, clearly indicating that there was “before,” and now there’s “after;” that at this moment in time we changed something in our students’ lives. If we don’t aspire to that, if we accept a too-narrow definition of what we do for a living, then we relegate ourselves to mediocrity.
Godin says that the way we make change is by leading, and that leading is simply helping to connect people and ideas. And, at this moment in time, we are at a tipping point (dare I say a moment of “shift”), because the technology allows us to connect in ways that previously were unimaginable or impractical (see Shirky’s Here Comes Everybody). And we can find others that are interested in and passionate about the same things, not by forcing them, but because we want to be connected. We need to be connecting as educators and, just as importantly, we need to be helping our students connect.
He goes on to say that we need to find folks that are disconnected, but already have a yearning; people who are just waiting for someone to lead them. (Sound like anyone you know?) We need to be heretics, who look at the status quo and say, “I can’t abide it.” (What’s wrong with the status quo? Unless you don’t see any need in the world, any disaffection, any hurt or disconnectedness, then we must try to improve on the status quo.) Is this in your curriculum? Perhaps not in so many words, but it should be, so I’m asking you to add it. Right now.
Godin then says there are three questions to ask yourself if you’re trying to lead something. If educators are leaders, then we need to ask ourselves these same questions.
- Who are you upsetting? If you’re not upsetting anyone, then you’re not changing the status quo. (Note that this is not upsetting people just to upset them, but rather with a purpose, with a goal, with an important change in mind that’s necessary to improve things for someone. Editor’s note: I’ve got this one nailed. Unfortunately, I don’t think it stands on its own.)
- Who are you connecting? (Think outside your classroom walls for a moment here. Nothing wrong with connecting inside your classroom, but some of those students have yearnings that don’t match up with others in their classroom, so help them find their tribe.)
- Who are you leading? (Don’t limit this to the students in your classroom, or the adults in your building/department; leading is not limited by proximity or geography anymore. Also some folks will protest that they don’t want to lead or that’s not in their job description. I say it should be, and I’d ask you to add it now.)