*UPDATED Dec. 2016*
So… my other half continually says to me, (amongst many other things,) that I sit on the fence a LOT. She also, says to me, that I challenge things, or be controversial for the sake of being controversial. She argues. I don’t really have a need, but instead I prefer to hear/see/read reactions, that I like to see how people respond. Maybe, just maybe, this is true. I mean, I have always taught my students…
The best way to argue is to know your opposing point better than yours.
This to me makes sense? If you know what you are trying to challenge, you can establish ways to challenge it.
So, what is the point of this blog? I am not entirely sure, I feel I must again write something that discusses the issue of challenging colleagues, teachers and a fellow human?
So I tweeted out the below…
Don’t judge any teacher
If you dislike an idea, don’t use it
We’re all in this together.
— Amjad Ali (@ASTsupportAAli) December 9, 2016
I am the kind of person that always tries to support the underdog, that loves those feel good American sport movies where those with no chance succeed. Most recently watching Billy Elliot during a school production, I was extremely moved by his story, the obstacles he overcame and the support he recieved. I am the guy, that will befriend the person who others bullied. I am the person who will try to defend and protect. Not sure why? Growing up with 3 older sisters? Maybe, they have taught me more than I will ever know.
Challenging something is meant to be healthy? It is meant to be constructive? it is meant to be helpful right? I mean, it is simply not enough if somebodies heart was in the right place, that they tried their best, put in a lot of effort and wanted to do well. Although, that is usually enough for our students! What if the idea is ‘damaging’?
If for example somebody organises an event, a large, successful event, and one challenges the gender or ethnic make up of such event, is that OK? Is it ok for those people to say, this is not good enough?
Is it OK for people to disagree with the entire premise of a policy at their school? Or what they believe is the right thing to do for their students in their area at their school?
Is it acceptable for people to write blog posts about such events/policies/ideas and argue their own personal rationale/reasoning for disagreeing with it? Is it OK for colleagues to riducule an activity? A resource, an idea, a students grammatical errors? A teachers errors? But, what if they think the idea is a waste of students time?
In my view and my opinion, I would find it hard to challenge an idea that I am not delivering, that I do not know the students, or context it is being delivered to. I always say, try, refine or ditch. But, what if the idea is that ‘bad’, you feel it is something that should be openly challenged, as it is openly shared? I think, go ahead! Challenge, ask questions, but do it with grace, humanity and with a friendly nature. But, who needs to listen to me. Nobody. Ironically, a key element of twitter is to not to tell anybody to do anything, I am not the boss of anybody. Just a concerned citizen maybe?
Ed Catmull at Pixar, states “a hallmark of a healthy, creative culture is that its people feel free to share ideas, opinions and criticisms.”
To be honest, I am not entirely sure, I am in two minds about it. I know, simply not to be nasty to anybody, but is a simple opposition to an idea being nasty? No, well, it depends how it is done.
I do always think; if you want to challenge then…
- Keep it private
- Stick to the facts
- Allow a response
- Keep emotions out of it
But, that is so difficult, you can’t keep a blog/tweet private, facts are sometimes very subjective, (although, if something is a fact, it should just be clear, but look at what MPs spout out daily! Also, how can you not get emotional about an issue close to your heart? Or close to the persons heart that you are challenging?
Everyone is entitled to their own opinions, but not their own facts!
Challenge can however be extremely useful in many ways. A little like when reading your own writing, subconsciously you miss the chance to self correct any mistakes. So, until somebody breaks you out of your ‘good ways cocoon’ you may not notice the things being highlighted.
Bad news travels faster right? But, is it because we need to respond quicker?
“When you’re building an institution, you’re consciously building something that will be beyond you, It’ll exist beyond you, it’ll grow beyond you, it’ll sustain itself beyond you … it’s about creating culture and values that persist.” Coke, CEO.
So, with us tweeting publicly, writing blogs, sharing items on websites are we building a mini institution? Do we need to disassociate ourselves, our personalities, ‘us’ from these such events, and look at the bigger picture. But, the problem is the bigger picture contrasts for such individuals. Therefore, this is clearly hard to do, for us, as educators I think.
Many businesses have customer care lines, have feedback avenues for people to address concerns to them, they also says if you are not happy with this product you can contact them. However, their public persona/face is so important to them. They do not want to see/hear/share bad press. Nor do we. Why should we. Why should one be publicly called out. Do we need a type like this channel open as educators? Problem with this is as most people have attended a school, they often thinks this warrants them to have an expert label attached to them. If other educators are in a school context they may think what is happening to them is simply what should apply everywhere else?
Something works somewhere, but not everything works everywhere.
Upon further reflection I think back to personal experiences; how can a white, male, tell me, words are just words. Get over it? Do they know how I feel? What I have been through? Or maybe, here I am letting emotions get in the way? We have also heard the responses to all male panels and the points made about lack of BME representation. One colleague simply asked, what is BME! We then get conflicting views from BME members of the community themselves. Who for them, the bigger picture is different.
The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy. (Martin Luther King.)
I realise I may not have answered a single point here. I realise I may have just wasted 5-10 minutes of your life, but if I can leave you with one thing; if you challenge, challenge for an aim. That being you want the person/thing to do better for themselves and therefore ultimately for their students. Not for you, not for you to prove they are wrong, but to help.
Many challenges I read point out problems, but do little in the way of offering solutions, many things I see, do not take into consideration context.
I hope that makes sense.
Challenge is the pathway to engagement and progress in our lives. But not all challenges are created equal. Some challenges make us feel alive, engaged, connected, and fulfilled. Others simply overwhelm us.