Lucky Number Seven

As of this week, I’m participating in and somehow ended up organizing a f2f/online book group reading Stephen Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. Full disclosure here, my mom has worked in human resources since I can remember, and 7 Habits was one of the founding doctrines of my childhood. At 12 or 13 I remember sitting at the kitchen table trying to write my mission statement.
Perhaps I’ve shared too much.
I’ve decided to blog as I read to keep track of my thinking for when the group gets together and to expand the conversation.

I’m reading the 2004 edition of the book with a revised Forward. The first piece that struck me was Covey’s acknowledgment, “We have transitioned from the Industrial Age into the Information / Knowledge Worker Age – with all of its profound consequences.” This tip of the hat in the first paragraph helps give the text greater credence in my eyes. I was curious when I picked it up if he would turn a conveniently blind eye to the changes we’ve seen in the last 15 years or so or if he would use the habits to frame the impact of those changes.

Covey’s assertion when asked if the text, now 20 years old, is still relevant:

[T]he greater the change and more difficult our challenges, the more relevant the habits become. The reason: our problems and pain are universal and increasing, and the solutions to the problems are and always will be based upon universal, timeless, self-evident principles common to ever enduring, prospering society throughout history.

It’s an interestingly strong claim that I’ll keep in mind when I start reading Jared Diamond’s Collapse.

He then moves to list what he sees as our most common human challenges:

  • Fear and insecurity
  • “I want it now.”
  • Blame and victimism
  • Hopelessness
  • Lack of life balance
  • “What’s in it for me?”
  • The hunger to be understood
  • Conflict and Differences
  • Personal Stagnation

Those in bold are the challenges that struck me as particularly relevant in education.

Covey writes, “the children of blame are cynicism and hopelessness,” and it takes me back to every conference I’ve ever attended where broken teachers ask for answers and ideas and help for bringing life back to their practice, then promptly shoot down any answers, ideas or help that are offered.

As to balance, Covey wonders why we find ourselves, “in the ‘thick of thin things'”. It’s something I struggle with frequently, but much less at SLA as Chris works quite hard to keep the minutia off our plates.

Perhaps the most impactful statement for me in the first few pages deals with the hunger to be understood: …[T]he principal of influence is governed by mutual understanding born of the commitment of at least one person to deep listening first.

During on of the EduCon conversations, I listened as one frustrated educator exasperatedly exclaimed that he couldn’t get parents to the table because they didn’t want to have the important conversations about data.

It struck me then, and continues to resonate, that our students’ parents’ ideas of what conversations and, indeed, what data are important contrast sharply with the data he was talking about. Imagine, though, if the first time any teacher interacted with a parent or guardian, it wasn’t to relay information, but to listen deeply. Why don’t we do that?

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