Challenge Me.

Growth. Image from (cc)

In his book Five Dysfunctions of a Team, Patrick Lencioni tells us that if you have a team that sits around and always agrees, you are not a real team. Teams must challenge each other to be better. There is no innovation if everyone agrees; agreement equals status quo.

I have recently read a few posts by educators whom I consider leaders in the the world of professional learning communities – Bill Ferriter and Cale Birk. In Ferriter’s post, he quotes Dyer, Gregerson and Christensen (from the book Innovator’s DNA) when he writes

Recognizing that the best ideas are the by-product of intellectual collisions, true innovators constantly seek out sources of personal and professional challenge.

For my first few years as an administrator, I had battles with colleagues around assessment and student motivation. I would come away from meetings angry and frustrated. If someone debated me, I would take it personally. I would defensively REACT rather than professionally RESPOND. I strongly believed in my philosophies and would become offended if someone challenged me. I felt there were some colleagues that i just did not get along with.

In 2009, I opened up a Twitter account and began blogging. It took a lot of time and building of confidence to put my ideas out there but eventually… I did. I starting writing about rewards, discipline, awards, assessment, and homework (among many other topics). People immediately began to challenge me and I was not sure how to react. I realized that I better have research and experience to back up my thoughts. As I grew in the blogging world, I began to mature as an educator. I started to love being challenged on topics and engaging in professional debate with people online. However, in the face to face world, I still took things too personally.

This past year, I realized that I should be THANKFUL to those that have challenged me both online and in person. It is THESE people that have helped me to grow and see education through a different lens. Those who have asked powerful questions around student motivation and assessment have actually helped me to either become more confident in my philosophies or reflect and alter my views.

It is only through these challenges and intellectual collisions that I have grown. To those who have challenged me within our school staff, our district or online: thank you.

It is acceptable to disagree with a person at the table but it is UNacceptable to ignore them when they have a different view. It is important to have people in your professional learning community/network who continually challenge you and the team to be better. When someone disagrees, do not take this challenge personally and then react. Instead – listen… reflect… respond.

I am addicted to learning and it is through respectful, challenging educational dialogue that I see the most growth.

Pernille Ripp challenged me to write about how blogging has changed my world. Blogging had led me down a path to meet so many educators who continue to engage with me in dialogue around student learning. The lessons I have learned from these intellectual collisions have transferred from the computer screen to face to face meetings. Now, instead of taking things personally, I have begun to take things professionally and use the disagreements as a way to grow as an educator and as a person.

Help me continue to grow. Challenge me.

Cross-posted at The Wejr Board blog.



  1. Robyn said:

    Challenge doesn’t mean conflict. What you need is someone who is a pertinent questioner – who listens, then throws provocative questions at the team. I feel that this is much more effective that dissenting opinions that can spill over into personal conflict and make people more entrenched in their opinions.

    October 14, 2011
  2. Paul Erickson said:

    We need challenged as leaders and our teachers need to challenge one another as teammates tenaciously seeking the means to learn and grow. To everybody leading teams of teachers, how to you, in a psychologically safe way, get one teacher to push another in a grade level team?

    October 17, 2011
  3. There is nothing wrong with challenging others or being challenged yourself. That’s what makes us better people and better able to support each other. However, there is a skill to challenging others as it requires an element of sensitivity and an understanding that the challenge might be wrong. Consequently, the challenger must consider that there could be some rebuttal of the challenge that is valid and reasonable. The best leaders challenge in a supportive environment utilising coaching strategies to help others understand themselves better.

    October 18, 2011
  4. Cameron Hall said:

    I agree that teachers need to be challenged. I recently had a conversation with one of my administrators about what goals I had, and what actions I was going to take, in my path towards completing my masters degree pursuing administration. One goal I have is to effectively challenge those around me. Yet do so without those individuals taking the challenge as a slight against what they are currently doing. It is not my role, nor my intention to judge. Yet I struggle with presenting my challenges in a way that isn’t taken personally. I appreciated Robyn’s comment about being a pertinent questioner, not a sharer of opinions.

    November 3, 2011

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