Creating Bridges


Good professional learning will give you lots of ideas on what you can do with your students on “Monday”. Great professional learning will make you think about how you teach every day.  It should not only provide ideas, but make you feel a little uncomfortable.  There is a fine balance and one of the greatest compliments that I have ever received was from the foreword in my book from Dave Burgess;

Perhaps his greatest gift is how he can simultaneously prod you and pull you, forcing you out of your comfort zone while making you feel as if he is holding your hand and walking with you the whole way.

This is what I strive for.  Some days I get closer to it than other days.

But to do this, I have to be open to challenge my own learning. One of the things I tell participants in my sessions is to not disagree with me after the day, but during. It only helps myself, and the room, to truly grow.

As I threw out this challenge, one woman accepted. She shared that she had “Never had a cell phone, nor  will I ever get one.”  I asked if she would be open to changing her mind, and she said, “nope”.

Now you might be reading this and thinking, fixed mindset!”, but the words do not illustrate the story properly.  Here was a teacher, in July, spending her own time, to learn about what I was sharing.  She didn’t have to be there but she chose to be there.  She nodded her head up and down when I shared many things, and you can see she wanted the best for students, just as I do.  Her honesty was refreshing, but not as refreshing as her enthusiasm for students.  I could have focused on the idea that she would be a “tough sell”, but I genuinely could feel her that she wanted best for kids and just maybe had a different approach.  I saw it because I looked for it.

Earlier in my career, this would have frustrated me.  Now, I am doing my best to see where we connect first, not only where we disagree.  The old adage of “build a bridge instead of walls” (source is unknown), is something that I am trying to adopt more in my thinking, and I found more in common than I did in opposition.

As I write this, I cannot stop thinking of this article, “The ‘Other Side’ is Not Dumb“.  It is a brilliant read (seriously read it), that goes way beyond professional learning, but in many aspects of our lives, especially in relation to how we use social media:

It’s impossible to consider yourself a curious person and participate in social media in this way. We cannot consider ourselves “empathetic” only to turn around and belittle those that don’t agree with us.

We often take disagreement as “being wrong”, instead of embodying that same curiosity we want from our students for someone else’s perspective when it is in disagreement with our own.

But these words especially…

As any debate club veteran knows, if you can’t make your opponent’s point for them, you don’t truly grasp the issue. We can bemoan political gridlock and a divisive media all we want. But we won’t truly progress as individuals until we make an honest effort to understand those that are not like us. And you won’t convince anyone to feel the way you do if you don’t respect their position and opinions.

In life, and learning, these words matter.

Bridges, not walls. We need to look for them, and create them when necessary.