Sunday, May 4, 2008

Lame Excuses and Bad Habits

So, today's challenge for the 31 day challenge was to leave an open-ended question on a blog. Not too hard, but a little harder for me than the previous challenges. As I read the instructions I clicked to a blog I'd never been to before and read a post called The Top 100 Lamest Excuses for Not Innovating. This post hit a nerve, and commenter that I now am becoming, I dashed off a
"yes, I agree with you, great post" type of comment (which seems to be my standard). But there was no open-ended question in my comment. Then I jumped into my google reader and read this post, which was another post about the same post I had just read. Maybe it's the universe telling me it's time to confront this issue of lame excuses which has driven me crazy at work forever.
Obviously, it is not something unique to my particular school or even to the field of education.

So, I left my open-ended question on Britt's blog.
I know that it is part of human nature to resist change. I, myself, have a hard time with change. And yet, there is no stopping it. Why do you think so many teachers are so averse to innovation and change?

Now I want to try to answer my own question. It's a tough one. Mitch Ditkoff (from the first mentioned blog post) gives this technique for dealing:

1. Make a list of your three most bothersome excuses.

2. Turn each excuse into a powerful question, starting with the words "How can I?" or "How can we?" (For example, if your excuse is "That's R&D's job," you might ask "How can I make innovation my job?" or "How can I help my team take more responsibility for innovating?"

3. Brainstorm each question -- alone and with your team.

So, there is a potential answer to the question...but still, I am interested in the very open-ended question, "WHY?"
Creature of Habit
I guess I will look to myself first. It is kind of a silly example, but this firefox-safari thing comes to mind. I am in the habit of using safari as my browser. I have all my bookmarks set up just the way I like them. But, more and more, I am finding that things don't work as well in safari, and I need to switch over to firefox. It's not just cocomment, it's moodle, edline, a number of tools work best in firefox. And yet, creature of habit that I am, I open safari first, every time. So yesterday, I decided to remove safari from my dock (dock=the thing we use in mac osx to easily access applications). Do you know that I couldn't stand not having safari in my dock? I had to put it back!

We know all the sayings "creature of habit," "old habits die hard," etc. There is a lot to be learned from examining our habits and teaching ourselves to adopt new habits to help us make the kinds of changes we wish to make. It brings to mind a favorite quote that is on the top of my blog and on my wall in the computer lab at work.

"The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn and relearn."

I see this at the core of the lame excuses: old habits and some laziness. The more you do it, the easier it is to learn, unlearn, relearn. It can almost become a habit in itself, and I think it is part of what using technology is doing for us as human beings.

So, why are teachers so stuck? Perhaps it is unfair for me to pick on teachers. I only know teachers. I have never really worked in any other type of organization. But, that said, it is sort of widely known that schools seem stuck in the industrial age. Why is that?

Here is what comes to mind: Fear. Lack of time. Lack of interest. Lack of passion for learning, improving their practice, trying new things (this is the one that bothers me most). Habit.

I have had an idea for professional development for next year that I hope will address a few of these concerns. I will blog about it as I go forward with it. The only thing that can not be addressed even with the best professional development is a lack of passion for being a learner. I wish people like that would go into some other profession.

image: "Question mark in Esbjerg" alexanderdrachmann's flickr May 4, 2008.


Britt Watwood said...

Excellent post and analysis. If there was one word that jumped out at me, it was "passion." Just as lack of passion for learning is a core problem, igniting passion in learning through our students might be part of the solution!

Kate Foy said...

Hi Andrea
love that quote about the illiterate of the 21st century. What scares me is that judging by the 'lame excuses' quotient, many of them are my colleagues! I'm in higher ed. Scary!
Thanks for dropping by my blog.

tasteach said...

"Old habits die hard!" This is me at the moment. I have an interactive whiteboard in my room, but the majority of the time I use as a normal whiteboard. Yet today, a teacher aide came into the room to work with a group of students and her comment to me later was "WOW what a great way to teach and learn with the students" Maybe my old habits are gradually being changed.

Ken Allan said...

Thanks for this thought provoking post Andrea.

I’ve been in teaching a long time and have less than a handful of years to go before I retire. My experiences of observing teachers brings me to agree absolutely with what you say about them resisting change.

My feeling is that it is a human instinct to resist change, especially change into the unknown. Perhaps it’s genetic, something that has evolved over the thousands of years of human existence, as a behaviour to protect the species.

There is a security in the ‘know’, comfort zone stuff that perhaps also contributes to the homophily that Michele spoke of in one of her recent posts. This is a social behaviour (of society as a complexity system) that tends to resist change of a sort.

Belief is a very powerful emotion. It drives some people to do great things. All the great leaders followed a belief – “I have a dream!” Teachers are very human people. They know what they know, and they believe they know what works, or at least what works for them.

No one would doubt the changes within society that have taken place in the last 50 years. Even since the start of the 21st century, change, especially in the way knowledge is looked upon, has moved faster than it has ever done.

Teachers foster their thoughts about knowledge, especially experienced teachers, for they have lived through a time when knowledge was believed to be everything. Well, we now know that there are huge differences of opinion among educators on this topic called knowledge.

But can we blame experienced teachers for resisting change that may be seen as impacting on their very reason for being?

Sorry about the length of this comment :-)

Ka kite
from Middle-earth

Blogger In Middle-earth said...

Hi again Andrea!

I've thought long and hard about your comment on my blog about the length of the above comment, that it was "a blog post in itself!"

When does a comment become too long and should be relegated to a post on the commenters blog site?

Perhaps this is a topic brewing for a post.

Ka kite
from Middle-earth

Britt Watwood said...

In response to @Ka kite
from Middle-earth:

I would gladly accept comments of ANY length over on my blog! Your meaty response simply indicated to me some substantive thought being given...and there is nothing wrong with that!

Blogger In Middle-earth said...

Thanks Britt

About a comment on your site, I'll see what I can do!

Ka kite ano

joaquin said...

Wanted to check in with you and see if cocomment is working well with Firefox

Blogger In Middle-earth said...

@Joaquin - It is working well with Firefox.

Ka kite