“We were doing things fine before, why change now?”
“These kids are always on their cellphones. When I was in school, no one even had a laptop.”
“I feel pulled in too many directions--I can barely keep up with grading--how can they expect me to teach all of this material and help with extracurriculars?”
As teachers, there is always a list of complaints. While some are genuinely valid, most of the time griping about a policy change or workload is not going to positively affect the outcome. In fact, the “whiners” can often be loudest, but they usually are the ones who are overly attached to the job. Being attached may seem like a positive quality, but too much attachment leads to change resistance. Living in the 21st century compels us to change -- personally and professionally.
The other day my husband mentioned, “5 years ago, I never would have thought I’d be purchasing practically everything online.” Yet we have found online platforms to be more time-efficient and, oftentimes, more affordable. It may have taken us five years to change our shopping habits, but how much longer do we resist change in education?
As someone in my early-30s, I feel like I have a foot in both worlds--I grew up researching out of encyclopedias and knowing the Dewey Decimal System by heart--yet while in college, I also was in the first wave of Facebook users and, at one point, was so addicted to Instagram and Twitter that I had to delete both apps in order to remain productive.
As educators, learning how to hold on to the strategies, methods, and energy that motivated us to inspire future generations is valuable. In turn, however, learning how to incorporate assistive technology, tiered instruction, or project-based learning into our current curriculum only continues to accelerate student learning for the modern workplace.
In Seth Godin’s book Linchpin, seeing his chart that broke down how Discernment, Attachment, Passivity, and Passion all correlate for different types of reactionists in the workplace, helped me see the benefits of adaptability not only for my students, but also for myself.
The “whiners” resist change as much as the “zealots” do. The “bureaucrats” know how to game the system--going along with the changes but without the drive. The “linchpins” are the people we desire to see our students develop into, but also who we want to be ourselves. The “linchpins” are not only passionate about their work, but they also have high discernment about how to accomplish goals and adapt to new situations.
According to Godin, linchpins also “accept that human beings are difficult to change, and embrace (rather than curse) the uniqueness that everyone brings to the table” (177).
As an educator, I believe that statement applies to my students -- knowing that I can do my best to instruct them, but tapping into the unique skills might be exactly what unlocks the passion to intrinsically learn.
On the other hand, I also could re-phrase Godin’s statement as:
Great teachers accept that educational systems are difficult to change,
and embrace (rather than curse) the unique challenge that it brings.
Instead of bemoaning the difficulty of our jobs, face the challenge with the mindset that you can only control your responses, not others, and find the motivation that brought you to educate young people in the beginning.
Be the linchpin of your classroom.