There are a lot of difficult conversations going on around me lately, in every school that I am working in. Everyone is calling for meaningful change, which is never an easy call to answer, and as we begin treading those very deep waters, the threat of drowning in an ocean of need becomes very real.
This week, I’m appreciating the fact that the work I’m involved with has been guided by a clear purpose. Much thought went into defining what teachers wanted to accomplish and understanding what they felt success might look like in the short and the long term. Naming goals and the outcomes aligned to them was essential at the outset in that it provided vision. Now that we’re beginning to navigate the choppy waters of change, our purpose acts as a compass and guide, ensuring that our energies are devoted to reaching the shore rather than swimming against the ever-present undertow.
There are many forces that threaten to pull us under. Resources are always limited, and resistance always remains a challenge that we can learn from. Conflict is a necessary and healthy part of the process. It’s an uncomfortable one, though, and many groups remain unable to navigate these storms successfully.
Adhering to certain norms becomes a must. When groups are unwilling to explore, embrace, and exhibit standards of professional practice, conversations are often guided by heavily biased misinformation, and the potential for anyone to successfully reach landfall drops significantly. Allowing our frustrations to devolve into finger pointing and gossiping only serves to poison the waters and contaminate the very relationships that could be serving to sustain us.
Without this susteneance, apathy prevails, and apathy is no force against the undertow. Purpose, intention, and action are. Defining group norms and valuing professional practices help get us there. We ask our students to adopt certain behaviors and values when they come together to learn. It’s important that educators do the same. We need to take the work that we do seriously, if we seriously want to effect change.