Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Create A Movement

This TED Talk by Seth Godin is worth 17 minutes of your time. After you watch it, some thoughts are below the embed.

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.
  1. 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.)

  2. 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.)

  3. 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.)
Godin concludes by asking his audience to create a movement, to find their tribe. So, what are you waiting for?


  1. I had just watched the TED talk featuring Seth Godin shortly before I saw your tweet. As he talked about connecting with tribes I couldn't help but think about Twitter. I have only been a member since February, but I am making so many wonderful connections with other educators. I have even joined some "tribes" on Twitter.

    If leading is helping to connect people and ideas then I am slowly starting to be a leader. Thanks to Twitter I have grown my PLN and love connecting and sharing ideas with these people.

    I was a teacher who used to say I teach 4th grade math. Now I say I teach students how to find answers and become lifelong learners.

    I really like the light bulb analogy and plan to step on at least one light bulb one each day.

  2. nice connections to teaching karl. thank you. upsetting, connecting, leading. i appreciate the focus you helped create in my head just now.

    speaking of connections -
    how did your expanded school board grading session go?

    i just finished richardson's blogs, wikis, podcasts - (i think that should be standard reading for teachers today.) the whole idea of making those connections.
    when richardson talked about the need for kids to publish - and publish usefully - not just to end up in a recycle bin at the end of the year - i thought of you and that grading process. how meaningful for the kids - to connect to others and find more meaning/purpose to their project/product.

    hoping you'll post sometime the benefits your kids got from that specific process. that's one of my goals for next year. useful end products.

  3. @PNaugle - I like the "shift" in what you say you do. Go break some light bulbs today.

    @blog for peace - the virtual school board sessions are coming up Friday, Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.

  4. I agree with what you mean about upsetting people. Yesterday, a teacher who is almost 2 years behind in fulfilling her state mandated technology standards asked if it was okay to use Google to demonstrate one of the requirements (an internet search, difficult, huh?) Well, it asks for a Boolean search and most teachers when they turn in their work don't do a Boolean search, so they have to do it over.

    Anyway, to avoid that, I told the teacher that while using Google, make sure it's a Boolean search. She replied back via email,"tell me what that is."

    So I told her that really, she should find out on her own instead of me just giving her the answer. I even explained it as a skill that teachers should model for students so they can learn on their own, rather than just relying on teachers to give them the answers.

    She still isn't talking to me.