When I worked as a teacher in Cotulla ISD, Cotulla, Tx–same place as Lyndon Baines Johnson taught, BTW–I taught reading and writing. I have to say, my kids would walk out of my class completely worn-out and there was great writing going on. Why was it great? It was great because it was real, rooted in their life experiences, like the Josefina’s story of catching rattlesnakes (you wouldn’t doubt a fifth grader if you saw what she looked like). Poetry, narrative, whatever form/function, didn’t matter. I was also learning how to teach, and writing with my students.

It was their efforts that made me thirsty for more learning, more strategies, more approaches to facilitating their writing and reading.

Two of the graduate level classes I took that first semester at the University of Texas at San Antonio, on writing (Dr. Curt Hayes) and reading (Dr. Carolyn Kessler), were critical to my success. No, critical just doesn’t get at it enough. It’s closer to what Anthony de Mello described in a story of a person seeking enlightenment. In the story, the master is asked, “How will I achieve enlightenment?” His response? The master puts the person’s head under water and holds it there for a short time. The person, of course, comes up gasping for air. When the
person had caught his breath, the master replies, “When you gasp for enlightenment as much as you did for air.”

I couldn’t drive fast enough to class, to participate in the activities, to return back to my classroom 85 miles south of San Antonio, where students tracked in the
red dirt and showers were hot water even when the tap was turned to cold, and try things out with my students.

We experimented on our writing together. It was a foundational experience for me, one I wish every teacher could have no matter what they were about. When I share the experience with fellow teachers, it is only then that I realize how extraordinary it was. Like the blogging
teachers say now, we were engaged in conversations about writing and reading. It didn’t happen overnight, but it happened. How could it not?

That’s the kind of teaching and learning I’m looking for, the teaching that makes you gasp for learning, whatever the source. It’s not something you run into every day, although I’ve been fortunate to experience it more than others, and I’m gasping for info on how to change the world. Robert E. Quinn hooked me on his writing with his book, Deep Change. My goodness, what a powerful voice on bringing about change. As I was skimming the book,which I intend to share with my team, the following jumped out at me. I had never heard or read this story before about Martin Luther King before.

The words I spoke to God that midnight are still vivid in my memory. “I
am here taking a stand for what I believe is right. But now I am afraid.
The people are looking to me for leadership, and if I stand before them
without strength and courage, they too will falter….” Almost at once
my fears began to pass from me. My uncertainty disappeared. I was ready
to face anything. The outer situation remained the same, but God given
me inner calm….I knew now that God is able to give us the interior
resources to face the storms and problems of life.
Source: Change
the World
(Robert E. Quinn)

This is exactly the way you can feel when working to bring about change. You start to feel like the biblical Jonah. “Go ahead,” Jonah said, “I know the tempest has come on you because of me…You’re better off casting me into the sea.” Then, when you begin to work about on thechanges, you, and maybe your team, too, start to feel like Peter

Paging through my copy of Educational Leadership (May, 2006), I ran across this quote that jumped out at me. The issue is focused on Challenging the Status Quo. The quote comes from the article starting on page 32:

Leaders seeking change must abandon the fantasy that human organizations
function as hierarchies–and recognize the reality of networks.
Source: Of Hubs , Bridges, and Networks (Douglas B. Reeves), page 32,
Educational Leadership (May, 2006)

Isn’t it ironic that the magazine for educational leaders is pushing for the recognition of networks as the way we work–essentially, GeorgeSiemen’s Connectivism–while school administrators are locking computers down and the Internet up?

Here’s what I see all us administrators doing in our schools (speaking generally for K-12 in Texas), in our offices at campuses and central office…huddling in fear, waiting to see what will get us through to the end of the year. What controversy can I avoid just so long as we make it to the end of the school year, and give people time to forget what we aren’t doing, how we’re not
moving ahead?

This isn’t negative, this is FEAR that’s determining how we behave. This isn’t PROTECTING our children, this is FEARING the consequences of acting. I imagine a soldier hunkered down behind a piece of concrete. His buddy is lying out there hurt. The sniper is circling. What is he going to do? Consider this quote from the same article cited above:

The school leadership knows what to do, but the stultifying effect of
hierarchical communication impairs effective action.

The “stultifying effect,” like a sniper waiting to pick you off, is exactly what seeks to block Web 2.0 technologies. The only way is to do what my principal in Edgewood ISD, David G., accused me of doing. I pray that I haven’t stopped doing it, that I haven’t been stultified by my sojourn in administration. His accusation? “You short-circuited the system. You were manipulative.” Of course, he didn’t say it like I would say it, with a negative connotation. For an administrator, manipulating reality is an exhilirating joy, like a child with play-doh or a techie with a content management system. That was his way of warming up to me to encourage me to be a principal!

If short-circuiting the educational process is the only way to get the electricity flowing again, then, what the heck are we waiting for? We’re not being “manipulative,” we’re reaching out past the artificial boundaries of the hiearchy, allowing ourselves to be human.

Will others in your organization look at you like Jonah and hope you say, “Cast me into the sea and the tempest will leave you,” or will they act like Peter did? I can hear him saying in his head,

If I believe in this guy, if I’m going to be true to who I am, then,
dammit, I’m going to act on it. I’m not going to sit here, huddled in
fear with everyone else. Command me, Jesus, and I know that I can do
it…for if the Living God wills it, how could it NOT happen?
Source: Matthew 14:22-31, Bible

Friends, the divine is in us. How could we not believe that we are commanded to shake off the stultifying effect, the fear? Let us say in unison, “Command me!” and then step forward, faltering but in faith. Let us abandon the fantasy we have created, and believe in the fantasy that we are powerful beyond measure. Maybe, what is needed is an exuberant perspective, a less do or die approach.


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