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Friday, May 06, 2016

Facts over Feeling: Teaching Well


I love this cartoon as it speaks of what is often true in human nature. In many instances people will choose the comforting lie over the unpleasant truth. When I read Intentional Interruption, I was surprised to read that humans often tend to overestimate their abilities. I think this fact may connect to the "comforting lies" preference.

I'm thinking about this topic today because sometimes we have to talk about difficult truths about ourselves and others. Sometimes we have to ask difficult questions that lead to this kind of discussion. We do this because we want to understand, get to the center or a situation, or improve conditions. If we don't ask, people stay mired in confusion and decisions remain challenging. Further if we don't ask the hard questions or listen to the "unpleasant truths," our ability to develop our craft, organizations, and service to others wane.

In some cases it seems that cultures of silence can arise and grow, and when this happens these cultures distance themselves from truth and make asking challenging questions difficult, frightening, and uncomfortable. This can happen in any culture--cultures in the home, cultures in organizations, and even cultures in classrooms. We have to be careful that we don't contribute to cultures of silence and cultures where questions are looked down on. Generally the more open an organization is to questions, the fewer questions there will be. This is true because an open culture lends itself to transparency leaving little need to ask or look for more information.

And what do you do about your own "uncomfortable truths," the parts of your personality, work, relationships, and life that are what you might call your weaknesses, challenges, or obstacles. We all have them. I think it best to own them and decide what you'll do about them. Just as it is in an organization, you can't focus on all the issues all the time. It's important to choose the issues that are most important and seek to focus on those in order to develop and make improvement.

Personally I'm thinking about the way I navigate diversity with regard to diversity of point of view, diversity of expression, diversity of comfort level, diversity of dreams/focus, diversity of pace, and diversity of speak. As I work with multiple people from many walks of life in many environments, I face this diversity, and I'm thinking about how to best respect, dignify, and acknowledge this as a positive aspect of good collaboration, communication, and care.

Organizationally, I am trying to ask the questions that create deeper understanding of organization processes, history, focus, and potential. I believe if I understand the aspects of the organization that support and impact my work in the classroom, I'll be better able to do that work and maximize the resources, support, and efforts that contribute to and impact my work.

In the end, I like to spend most of my professional time leading towards best possible effort with students. The "uncomfortable truths" in some ways are stepping stones to building both personal and organizational capacity to perform well with regard to service to students.