Dear Lone Wolf

Vast by Jeff Delp @azjd on Instagram
Vast by Jeff Delp @azjd on Instagram

Dear Lone Wolf,

It seems odd to speak of lone wolves to you, a person that is so
intricately… connected. And yet, as you read on, you will relate to the
loneliness that I describe, that I too have shared. Sometimes it is
surprisingly easy to ignore. Other times it seems as though you are
truly the lone wolf. You can hear the distant cries of other wolves
through the night air, but your days are spent in solitude. Alone.
It is a geographical solitude that can disappear in seconds via a
distant, digital connection… and return moments later when, within a
local context you are faced by those who:

…challenge your philosophical approach,

…question your different perspectives,

…disregard your passion,

…constrain your openness,

…contradict your principles,

…ignore your offers to share.

The loneliness manifests in different ways, we are unique and our
contexts are so different. Yet the loneliness remains a commonly
understood experience. It seeps into our being and makes us waiver, and
question: Why am I so misunderstood? Why are the challenges so big? Why
aren’t things moving faster? Why are so many barriers still being put
up? Why is it so hard? Why… must… I… do… this… alone?

Am I speaking to YOU yet? Have you felt like the lone wolf? If the
answer is ‘no’, then you need only read the next sentence, for the rest
of this letter is not for you, and if the answer is yes, then I do hope
you read on, for hope is what I wish to share.

“Change will not come if we wait for some other person or
some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the
change that we seek.” ~Barack Obama

And so now, if you are still reading this, I am speaking only to you.
I have written this letter for you. And I’ll start by telling you one
important message that my good friend Angela likes to share: YOU MATTER!
It’s true. You really do. More than you know! Margaret Mead said, “A small group of thoughtful people could change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” You are part of that small group. And as the word ‘group’ infers, you are not alone.

I’ve been where you are now, or hopefully like me, where you have
been.

I’ll prove it to you. Go ahead and check off the following
experiences if you can relate to them. Please do note that I’m switching
these statements from the third person ‘you’ to the first person ‘I’,
because many of these, though perhaps not all, will indeed be something
to which you can probably say, “I can totally relate”:

  • ”I’ve been deemed an evangelical preacher of web2.0 tools.”
  • “I know more about

    some teachers in other countries, and their
    teaching practice, than I know about the teacher down the hall.”

  • “I’ve been accused of being a self-promoter in my efforts to share.”
  • “I do things that other people talk about, adding “finger quotes”
    to their statements; you know that “blogging” and “tweeting” stuff.
  • “I’ve either heard ‘Where do you find the time?’ or ‘I really
    don’t have time for this extra stuff’ more times than I can count.
  • “I have watched others come from ‘the outside’ to share my same message, and it seems they are heard, whereas I am not.”

I’m sure you could add to the list. I’m sure that if you did, there
would be many a lone wolf that could relate. How is it that so many that
feel alone, can share such common experiences? It comes back to
geography. While we live in an incredibly connected world, where ideas
can ‘trend’ and spread in reformatted zeros and ones, from a fingertip
on a keyboard to a screen across the globe, we will still wake up
tomorrow at the same latitude and longitude as we did today. We still
find ourselves in structures, and schedules, and schools that have not
fully embraced the connected world that exists outside of dated
educational paradigms.

But here is a wonderful little secret that I want to share with you. I
share it with much excitement and a little caution. It may not seem
like it is reaching you, but it is… it’s closer than you think. It
approaches you both digitally and geographically. Are you ready? Here it
is: Things are getting better! Really! It took me more
than five years to see it, but I see it and I need to share that with
you. Do you

know what else? It is a really exciting time to be an
educator! There is a transformation happening and it is happening at an
exponential rate. What that means is that even if you are reading this
and thinking ‘Dave, you silly little optimist, you haven’t had to deal
with what I’m facing’, well even then, the transformation is closer than
you think. That’s why I share this with a little caution, because I
fear that I may lose you with my optimism. Do not treat this message the
way you have been treated by others. Hear it. Believe it. You may not
be seeing it yet, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t close, and inevitable.

Things are indeed getting better! I have spoken for years about
‘pockets of brilliance’ that I have seen. Isolated, lone wolves, who
have aspired and inspired because they perspired and desired to do
something that went against all odds of success. Lone wolves that could
have done more, had they had a local support system, a community of
learners to bounce ideas off of and to share the burden of innovation
with. And now I see it… I see enough of these ‘pockets of brilliance’
that are coming together, and through a combination of connectivity and
serendipity they are spreading. Where I would have seen a lone wolf, a
lone educator working in isolation, before, I now see a teaching team,
and I even see a whole school working together. Where I’ve seen policies
filled with ‘Thou shalt not…’, I now see, ‘We believe…’. Where I’ve
seen my network grow primarily in distant lands, I now see local,
digitally connected communities. Where I’ve nearly pulled my hair out in
frustration at the slow pace of change, I now see educational leaders
not just helping me, but pointing the way and guiding me. I have local
mentors and supporters. I have people seeking guidance, listening to me,
and thankfully pushing back… I’m engaged in learning dialogs… locally. I
don’t know if I joined a pack, or the pack joined me, but it is a lot
less lonely now.

Look carefully and you will see the transformation happening. Look to
your local community and seek out those who are also seeking others to
work with. We need to be cognizant of the person across the hall, or in a
neighbouring school, and know that some of them are looking for us, for
a local connection who ‘gets’ what is happening. We also need to
continue to share what we are doing online and ‘out loud’. Not everyone
has a vision of education rooted in empowering teachers and students.
There are some that think technology is an ‘answer’ to what ails the old
models and paradigms; Some who believe that we can replace teachers
with class monitors, and computer monitors as well as test markers and
digital marking. We need for the transformation we seek to be shared
openly, and articulately, so that good pedagogy is explicitly analyzed,
questioned reflectively, and improved upon by a community of learners.
We can not do that as lone wolves.

And so in conclusion, I ask that you change the very metaphor I have
shared with you. I do not ask you to abandon the lone wolves that you
see, but only to shift your perception of yourself as a lone wolf. It is
time for your very own transformation. It is time to leave the solitude
and… take flight! It is time to become a bird that soars free of the
constraints of geography. Take flight and share in the great heights
with others. But do not lose sight of your nest. Nurture those around
you and help them fly too. There are enough who want to spread their
wings that you need not be burdened by those who are grounded, wingless.

“A bird doesn’t sing because it has an answer, it sings because it has a song.” ~Maya Angelou

I invite you to sing your song, and know that it fits within a
greater melody. And take flight, knowing that others will join you. Like
Canadian Geese that take turns leading the flock, there will be times
when you must take the lead and the brunt of the resistance that you
face. But others will take the lead when you are weary, and if you need
to rest, you will not be left alone. You will not be left alone.

Sing because you have a song.
Soar because you have wings.
Share because you know that you must.
Seek others like you, because like you, they need to know they are not alone.
Shine because I know you can!

______________________________________

Last summer I went to a rather unique conference. Unplug’d
is an experience unto itself… a bunch of edtech types heading out to a
lodge on the edge of Algonquin Park, and just out of range of cell
service… truly unplugged! Before going to the conference, we were asked
to write a letter to anyone we wanted, related to education. I wrote
mine to a couple of lone wolves that had touched me with their stories
of frustration.

Here are the letters that we wrote, edited by our peers. Here is

my edited letter.
And I shared the full (unedited) version of the letter above. I wanted
to share this version because it is one of the few times recently
that I’ve written something that just flowed from my fingers, seemingly
without much thought, yet for me quite mindful.

Read some of the other letters too. (Just click on a person to see their peer edited letters.)

[Also shared on David Truss :: Pair-a-Dimes for Your Thoughts]

5 Comments

  1. […] Dear Lone Wolf, It seems odd to speak of lone wolves to you, a person that is so intricately… connected. And yet, as you read on, you will relate to the loneliness that I describe, that I too have …  […]

    March 2, 2013
    Reply
  2. Gord Holden said:

    Thank you for this insightful and inspiring piece post David. It has captured so much of the conflict between despair and hope experienced by educators trying to make a difference.

    How ironic that the same education system that compelled us to read “Jonathan Livingston Seagull” tends to shun innovative thinking and practices. Is it instinctive for our species? Certainly not amongst our youth who cannot wait for the next “big thing.” Even the world of business has realized that new technology compels them to abandon familiar territory for more productive practices. Perhaps it’s a school model so permeated by a need for compliance that makes the thought of change so problematic within education?

    Things ARE changing though. The connections you speak of are drawing innovators into packs. The threat now becomes the nature of these packs. Will they be wolf packs where each becomes subservient to the wisdom and will of the alphas? Or will they become packs of African Wild Dogs, where it is demanded that each explores the possibilities while hunting? Why is this important? The success rate of wolf packs on a hunt is around 10%, compared to 80% for their African cousins. The hunting method of the latter necessitates an openness to the discoveries of others.

    Adopting a mindset that supports a diversity of thought rather than the dominance of a singular way of thinking will not be easy. It necessitates contending with our own immersion in the latter during our early formative years. To be a more creative and successful culture of educators, we’ll need to acknowledge and subvert this counterproductive tendency. This will be especially crucial within those connections of lone wolves. They will need guard against a hierarchical model of leadership if they wish to truly demonstrate the power and efficacy held by a wide variety of innovative practices.

    March 3, 2013
    Reply
  3. As a computer technology educator and integrator and avid user of web 2.0 you have spoken directly to me and I thank you. What an amazing post, you are a wonderful writer. Very inspiring. I needed that.

    March 5, 2013
    Reply
  4. David Truss said:

    Gord,
    I didn’t make the connection to you and wolves… yet you live in a pretty neat 3D Immersion world of wolves and would make the connection more than most. Thanks for your insight.

    Sherry,
    Glad that it spoke to you, and thank you for your kind words.

    March 6, 2013
    Reply

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