A comment left on Techpathy has me asking myself a few questions:

Mr. Guhlin, 
My name is Brylyn Cowling and I am an elementary education major at The University of South Alabama. I will be summarizing and sharing my thoughts on this blog post on my personal blog on 9/15/13 as an assignment in EDM310. Would you be willing to share with me your ideas on how to keep a positive attitude towards political issues involving the school system? Also, when do you find it appropriate to speak up when you have concerns? I am a junior in college and I have honestly never considered how I would handle such situations until after reading your post. Thank you for your time and I look forward to receiving your response to my questions. 
My twitter address: @BrylynCowlingMy blog: http://cowlingbrylynedm310.blogspot.com/EDM310 blog: http://edm310.blogspot.com/

Welcome, Brylyn, to the edublogosphere, a place of excitement and danger, where your work can get you mythologized as a legendary hero or cast down into the depths of despair. When do you speak up, how do you do it, and should you speak up?

To begin with your second question, when do you find it appropriate to speak up? As educators, we are called to a public life, where every act we take should be one that lights the path ahead. When I started writing for publication many years ago, I realized that I had to focus on the positive. It is so easy to write “negative.” Critics strive for witty negativity but educators must find ways of laying bare the facts that promise growth and maintain relationships.

We must continue to protest, to question authority, to jam a spoke in the wheel. That means performing a revolutionary act…telling the truth. We do it, not because we want to be revolutionary, but because we are ourselves compelled to speak. The act of speaking is its own reward, more powerful than anything else. I was puzzled by Ursula Le Guin’s Wizard of Earthsea, by a statement in the text (a fantastic story I recommend even now), that said, “as a man’s real power grows and his knowledge widens, ever the way he can follow grows narrower; until, at last, he chooses nothing, but does only and wholly what he must do….”

It is a statement I understand anew each day. Quinn reminded me of it with these words:

We must create for the sake of creating. We cannot fall in love with our ideas if we live in constant fear of judgement. When we create, we experience deeper meaning. We begin to do the thing because we must…because we are doing something we love, we can let go of the concerns that drive our egos.
Source: Quinn, Changing the World

The act of creation embodied in this blog, in everything I write, are powerful antidotes to the poison we encounter in the wilderness of despair, of fear, and hypocrisy (especially our own). The act of creation does not negate my own acts of despair, fear, and hypocrisy. Rather, it allows one to transform them, like the dragon in my favorite story of St. George and The Quest for the Holy Grail. I share it below because it doesn’t hurt to share a good story again.

Beginning a modern day quest for the Holy Grail, George encounters a dragon named Igor. The dragon and George have a long talk and eventually, George gets a ride back home on Igor’s back. George shares his observations that…

From my position high on the dragon’s back, I noticed that the dragon’s body was covered with old wounds. Whenever the dragon breathed forth fire to light the path in front of us, I noticed that the wounds glowed golden-red in the dark. When I asked about them, the dragon replied, “Oh, my friend, I have been slain a thousand times, but I have always arisen again. These old woulds are the source of my power and my insight. 

Our greatest and worst enemies are not the monsters who roam the forest or even wicked witches or evil wizards. No, it is our scars, our wounds, and old injuries that we must fear. As we journey through life we have all been injured–hurt by parents, brothers or sister, schoolmates, strangers, lovers, teachers. Each wound has the power to talk to us, you know. They speak, however, with crooked voices because of the scars.

All of us have wounds–old ones and new ones–and whenever the monster appears, when hell breaks loose, we know that our old wounds are talking guiding us. It is these wounds that must be confronted (Hays, 1986).

Like the dragon later told George, we must find a way to transform the power of the wounds, and not give weight to the voice of the times when we did our best and were rejected. The power to lead lies in the transformation of the crooked voices, in the confrontation of the wounds. Crucial conversation and confrontations is the way ahead–the art of maintaining relationships while reaching agreement and dealing with disappointment in ourselves and others.

How can we share the truth AND maintain relationships? How can we retool schools for creativity without razing them to the ground first, avoiding a slash-n-burn approach to teaching, learning and leading? That is a question I’ve struggled with in this blog.

To answer your question, I find it appropriate to speak up when I have found a way to to reframe the problem in such a way that it focuses all stakeholders in solving it. Books like Crucial Conversations and Crucial Confrontations should be required reading for new educators who know a lot about their content, pedagogy, but little on how to negotiate people relations. After all, the reason I’ve spent so much time on this is because *I* am so lousy at it. Here are my notes on the subject. Do not misunderstand me, I am a rank beginner who commits atrocious acts of conversation every day.

To answer your first question, keeping a positive attitude is often about focusing on the whole problem–acknowledging the negative and the positive and how they feed off each other. There is power in this approach, and a healthy attitude takes a disinterested approach. If you don’t speak up, you will never know the difference between a poor situation and anything else.

Check out Miguel’s Workshop Materials online at http://mglearns.wikispaces.com

Everything posted on Miguel Guhlin’s blogs/wikis are his personal opinion and do not necessarily represent the views of his employer(s) or its clients. Read Full Disclosure

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