Are we talking our problems into existence?

As part of Connected Educator Month, Chris and I are having a great time hosting a book study of Building School 2.0. The questions for Week 2 went up last night, but this post isn’t to get you to join the conversation (though you totally should).

This is because a comment from last week from Nancy Ironside has kept me thinking about changing culture and perceived barriers. In the book, Chris and I call out the ineffectiveness of admiring the problem, and I think there’s some element of that in my reply to Nancy. More, though, she’s got me thinking about narrative creating reality. Below is my reply.

I hear what you’re saying about lip service being paid to innovation and a counter narrative being played out in policy and practice.

One of the things I’ve noted in schools everywhere is not innovation dying in policy or practice (to be sure, these can be killers), but it dying in the commonly-held narrative within a school or district. People start sharing the story that they’d like to do new things. They’d like to try this new approach or practice. But, they cite policy and administrative practices as hindering them. They cite them in that way – unspecific, as though these prohibitive policies and practices were floating in the ether.

When cultures start to change, it’s because people within those cultures do what you mention. They envision what they want the culture of their learning space to be and then they start acting and talking as though that new culture has become the truth.

I had a book when I was young called Donkeys Can’t Sleep in Bathtubs. It was a collection of ridiculous, arcane, and outdated laws that were still on the books in various states. The thing I realize now is that no one was trying to make a donkey sleep in a bathtub, and anyone who happened to try it nowadays would likely avoid jail time. This is the truth about those who decide to change the narrative about what’s possible within our schools simply by acting according to the narrative they’d like to work into existence.


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