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Live Your Will…Live Your Change

It is not uncommon to hear people describe change as difficult. In fact, often we describe change as something that people hate, that people fear, or that people don’t like to do.  We think about it. Other times we talk about it. And then there are those times we just keep thinking about it or even talking about it, but not doing anything about it.  Doing something different or trying something new for the very first time can bring about an array of emotions, thoughts, and feelings. We’ve all been there. Perhaps our minds and bodies were filled with anxiety, nervousness, fear, worry or just left frozen, unable to act.  Or maybe those emotions embodied excitement, energy, or a celebratory feeling of hope and newfound inspiration. In many cases, it may even lead to a combination of these feelings.

But what if we spent less time thinking about how we do things or wish we could do things and spent more time living those things as a way to live out those feelings?

This summer I was able to observe a group of people come together to live their change.  Sparked by an idea led by Jeff Zoul and Joe Mazza, 10 educators came together to write a 50,000-word book in 3 days, describing the way we think about several topics in education, including change, our story, learning, relationships, assessment, technology, teacher engagement, family engagement, leadership and finally, collaboration. As added inspiration, our task would support the work of the Will to Live Foundation, a foundation dedicated to preventing teen suicide by improving the lives and the will to live of teenagers everywhere.

Below is an excerpt from the topic I wrote on how we think about collaboration.

A few weeks ago I was listening to a podcast on school leadership when I heard a guest share his views with the host on the topic of collaborative leadership. One particular comment caught my attention.  He shared that if school leaders are to be successful, they must expect their teachers to work collaboratively in teams.  Moreover, he went on to say that schools which have teachers operating independently of each other are more likely to fail than those of their counterparts.

 His comments made me pause and ask the question, “Does it have to be either or?” Are there not times in our work as educators that a certain situation cannot demand both? It’s as though we have stigmatized those who at times prefer to work alone to the point we now hesitate to do so for fear of being viewed as an individual rather than as a team player. Our profession is often critical of those who want to work independently as though somehow these individuals are isolating themselves from others in exchange for collegial discourse. On the contrary, there is a difference between working independently and working in isolation. When I think of working independently, I think of learners still being influenced by outside sources, often leading to a broader perspective and deeper understanding.

 Ironically, what I observed over the course of the three days in Philadelphia as the authors came together to write wasn’t much different. I saw professional educators given a task, timeline and clear instructions before eagerly leaving to go work on their own or as some might say, in isolation. During the time they worked together they worked, well, collaboratively.  But each time it looked different.  When it appeared as though they had exhausted their moments of independence, they would revert back to working collaboratively and vice versa, moving back and forth effortlessly, depending on what their brains needed in that moment. In other words, sometimes they just needed to refresh their experiences.

 They worked, it seemed, as independent collaborators. Independent in one moment, yet collaborative in the next moment. They combined the best of both methods to meet their needs when the time called for it. Whether we are working in content or grade level teams, partnering with instructional coaches, doing teacher exchanges with other school districts or taking advantage of the digital tools available to us in order to connect with other educators around the country, I would argue that in the end regardless of whether you are a student or an educator, there is a place for both the way “I do it” and the way “we do it.” What is important is that we just don’t talk about collaboration, but we live it, both independently and collectively.

 As we move forward in our work and our lives, I challenge all of us to focus on “living” our will to change rather than just thinking about it and talking about it, just like these 10 educators did in the course of three days this past summer in a hotel in Philadelphia.


Note: A sincere thank you to Routledge Publishing for helping us “live” our will to bring about change and sponsoring this project. All proceeds from the book will go to the “Will to Live Foundation.” We look forward to the release of #EdWriteNow in December.







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