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Tuesday, May 01, 2018

Substance versus Show

I had a conversation with a friend about substance versus show. What's most important?

My initial reaction to this question is that substance trumps show.

Yet my friend responded that a colleague of his mentioned that "All business is show business."


That gave me pause.

Essentially I do agree that "show" belongs in the elements of effective effort, study, and work, yet I believe that effort overall has to be substantial--it has to have meaning, relevance, honesty, good intention, and a solid foundation. Our work can't be all about show.

What led me to this thought in the first place was a quick exchange about academic rounds. I'm not a big fan of academic rounds, though I do believe they hold some merit. When reading the book, Intentional Interruption, I clearly realized that rounds can be very superficial if not part of an overall effort--an effort that includes all the vital elements of good teaching and learning. Similar to an iceberg, what you see doesn't tell the whole story, much of what we do when it comes to successful teaching and learning lies below what's visible--there is tremendous work and multiple decisions that goes into what you actually see when you visit a classroom.

Show is important when that show is related to effective, substantive, honest, mission-driven effort--then yes, show it off, share it, let others know about it, but if show is simply about making people feel good or trying to prove your worth, then forget it, that's not valuable.

I know many will disagree--some are all about the show, we see that in every part of life, and we all have to look closely at the show and ask ourselves these questions:
  • What efforts led to this show?
  • What foundation does this show stand on?
  • What meaningful and relevant results are a product of this show?
  • What can we learn from the show, and what will we replicate later?
  • What value does this show have when it comes to effective share and later teaching/learning?
I want to think more about this. I want to take a close look at Berlin's lyrics below as I think about this topic. I'm open to your thoughts too.