Monthly Archives: October 2013

Leadership_and_learning

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We are in the river. We are the river!

I was reading Happiness Is A Choice by Barry Neil Kaufman (1991 pages 39 & 40) and was struck by the following flow of thought. I present here and will react after you have had a chance to read it.

We swim in a river of life. We can never put our foot into the river in the same place twice. In every second, in every millisecond, the water beneath us changes. Likewise, in every second, in every millisecond, the foot that we place into the river fills with new blood. Instead of celebrating the motion, we try to hold on to the roots and stumps at the bottom of the river, as if letting go and flowing with it would be dangerous. In effect, we try to freeze-frame life in still photographs. But the river is not fixed like the photograph and neither are we.

Ninety-eight percent of the atoms of our bodies are replaced in the course of a year. Our skeleton, which appears so fundamentally stable and solid, undergoes an almost complete transition every three months. Our skin regenerates within four weeks, our stomach lining within four days and the portion of our stomach lining which interfaces with food reconstructs itself every four or five minutes. Thousands, even millions, of neurons in our brain can fire in a second; each firing creates original and distinct chemistry as well as the possibility for new and different configurations of interconnecting signals. As billions of cells in our bodies keep changing, billions of stars and galaxies keep shifting in an ever-expanding space. Even the mountains and rocks under our feet shift in a never-ending dance through time. Life celebrates itself through motion and change.

Although we can certainly see continuity – seasons come and go, trees grow taller and people get older – we can acknowledge that each unfolding moment, nevertheless, presents a world different from that of the last moment. We could say that we and the world are born anew in every second and our description would be accurate scientifically. Therein lies an amazing opportunity for change. We can stop acting as if our opinions and perspectives have been carved in granite and begin to become more fluid, more open and more changeable, even inconsistent. We are in the river. We are the river!

Every stroke we make, every thought or action we produce, helps create the experience of this moment and the next. And the beliefs we fabricate along the way shape our thoughts and actions. Sounds rather arbitrary, some might say. It is! Quite simply, we try to move toward what we believe will be good for us and away from what we believe will be bad for us – operating always within the context of our beliefs. Even our hierarchies of greater “goods” and greater “bads” consist only of more beliefs. We hold our beliefs sincerely and defend our positions with standards of ethics or “cold, hard facts.” We treat much of what we know and believe as irrefutable. We talk in absolutes. Once our beliefs are in place, we use all kinds of evidence to support them, quite unaware that we have created the evidence for the sole purpose of supporting whatever position we favor. In essence, we have become very skilled at “making it up.”

“The river is not fixed like a photograph and neither are we.”

We change.

Our bodies change.

Our perspectives can change.

On one hand we can fabricate our thinking and we can attempt to never change.

Or, we can be intentional about our growth and development.

We choose the ‘frame’ for our thinking, our actions, our . . .

We might avoid the fact that our bodies are forever changing.

We might attempt to argue the knowledge of the billions of cells in our bodies changing.

We might want to think that our thinking is supreme or correct.

Or, we might see our thoughts, beliefs and awareness as ‘edges of our growth’.

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“Life celebrates itself through motion and change.”

Individuals can and do (at times) become walled silos of thought

Below are words I wrote as part of the Foreword for The Power of the Social Brain by Arthur Costa and Pat Wilson O’Leary.  I share these thoughts to encourage others to develop themselves as people capable of interdependent thinking.

There are many hurdles for those engaged in intentionally improving as an interdependent thinker. Individuals intent on independence, faced with the fact that others think differently about a given problem, often engage in aggressive or avoidant techniques. These techniques vary and can include holding onto past thinking, refusing to interact with other thinkers, labeling other thinkers as the enemy, and jumping to conclusions. The stability of a person’s status-quo thinking is often very attractive. It can be challenging to move into the instability and tentativeness of shared thinking. Patterson et al. (2008) explain that unpleasant endeavors “require a motivation that can come only from within. People stimulate this internal motivation by investing themselves in an activity. That is, they make the activity an issue of personal significance. They set high standards of who they’ll be, high enough to create a worthy challenge, and then they work hard to become that very person” (p. 93). Being internally motivated to grow and develop as a person who thinks well with others is a value for the person and for the common good.

Some individuals and like-minded groups of individuals can and do become walled silos of thought. Often adults in one specialty or with one point of view are certain that individuals who hold different worldviews won’t be willing to connect openly and think together without tensions erupting or without having the discussants fall back into unproductive “winner” and “loser” arguments.

Many others make no attempt even to politely associate with those who think differently.  Those committed to having their thoughts become the winning thoughts harbor hostility toward those who think differently. The other extreme is to be polite and settle for superficial interactions.

The promise of people thinking interdependently through contentious problem-solving situations is that such efforts ultimately can achieve significant positive outcomes for society and/or the individual. When we engage in interdependent thinking, we can all influence and be part of positive change. We all will not get our way or be the “argument winner.”

But if we invest in the concepts of thinking together with an open mind, a willingness to understand how others think and feel, and a desire to reflect and rethink throughout the process of coming to an actionable decision, we can accomplish much together.

Promise_of_thinking_inter

Learning is a consequence of thinking. —David Perkins, Smart Schools

Professional learning communities are more myth than reality if teachers operate independently and in isolation from each other (Hord, 1997). Working productively in such groups requires the ability to justify ideas and to test the feasibility of solutions on others. It also requires the openness and willing spirits of individuals to accept feedback from their critical colleagues.

Listening,

consensus seeking,

discarding one’s own idea to work with another’s,

empathy,

compassion,

group leadership,

supporting group efforts, and

altruism

are all behaviors that describe cooperative and collaborative human beings, and are mandates for engaging in interdependent thinking (Costa & Kallick, 2008).

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 Creating Interdependent Thinking Among School Staff by William A. Sommers & Shirley M. Hord in The Power of the Social Brain: Teaching, Learning and Interdependent Thinking by Arthur L. Costa and Pat Wilson O’Leary, 2013, Teacher’s College Press, page 69