Sometimes, a topic for a blog post will continue to hit me over the head until I take the time to sit down and commit it to writing. This is one of those posts. The seed was planted in an email from The Daily Stoic. Next came a series of conversations with my better half. She also works in education and has a keen way of cutting through the clutter and reminding me of things I may have forgotten or neglected. The simple lesson I keep having reinforced for me is talking is not action.
Marcus Aurelius expressed it this way, “Waste no more time arguing about what a good man should be. Be one.” Yes, Marcus is talking about character and personal growth, but the underlying message is quit talking about it and get after it. While I agree with Marcus, I like the way Epictetus gets at the same core message. “First say to yourself what you would be; and then do what you have to do.” That extra step of envisioning “what… would be” is important and I don’t think Marcus would disagree. It is in these dialogues and discussions that we learn from each other, create a vision, develop a plan, and seek inspiration. But if we want to create something new, we can’t stop there. We must, “do what [we] have to do.”
Let’s make this a little more concrete…
- First, create a clear vision. Make it as detailed as you have the patience to endure, but don’t let yourself get stuck here trying for perfection. Will you think of everything? Probably not and that’s ok.
- Figure out where you are. What are the things that are already happening that are moving you closer to the vision? What is holding you back that you need to let go of? What do you need to learn? Be careful and be sure you perceptions are accurate. Don’t make things worse, or better, than they actually are.
- Now the hard part. Go make it happen! Implement, monitor, coach, adjust. Exercise the will to stick to it. Don’t let something shiny and new (technology, textbook series, math program…) distract you from your vision, unless it helps you to achieve it. Don’t give up when things don’t go right and it gets difficult, because things won’t go right and it will be difficult. Persevere…
Now let’s get brutal. Stop just talking about the change you want to see. Stop arguing about what modern schools should look like. Stop merely saying you are going to integrate technology or improve your school culture. Figure out what needs to happen, and make it happen. Steps one and two are essential, but if we never move to step three we will never reach our goals. Leading change is tough. Leading change in a system with over 150 years of structures and traditions is something else altogether. This type of change requires a clear perception of where we are and where we want to be, the will to bring our vision into being, and then doing the things that need to be done; taking action.