The Fear Behind Opening Pandora’s Box

As I work with schools and talk about the power of connecting and learning with educators around the world, I give a warning to leadership that they are about to open “Pandora’s Box”. Although I do not mean that it will unleash all the “evils of the world”, I do believe that it does open up teachers to practices, teaching, learning, and leadership from around the world.  Once educators (and more and more students everyday) see what is happening in other schools, the expectation gets higher for their own organization.

To many leaders, this is exciting.  To others, it is terrifying.  When you know that your school and your practices can be openly compared to the world, it can be daunting, but many will see it as an opportunity to do something great.  Those leaders that see it this way, are the ones that usually have little to worry about.  They don’t want their teachers to be better solely because of them; they just want their teachers to be better.

What I have seen with many people that have started to connect is a struggle with what they see, and what they have.  Oftentimes, what they see is not as great as they may perceive, as schools rarely, if ever, post the things that they struggle with (many times because of professional and confidentiality reasons), and there is a “grass is always greener” mindset.  That being said, when educators see others have an openness in learning and promote innovative teaching and learning, many educators are wondering why they are often stifled in their own career.  Sometimes it is perception, but sometimes it is reality.

Many people that are already striving to be better are sponges and crave mentorship, but this is something that you should always be able to get within.  Unfortunately, that is not always the case  (Kristen Swanson writes a nice piece on finding someone to push you to be better), and people start to tap into “virtual mentors”, whether the “mentor” knows it or not.

Should schools be afraid of this?  Probably as much as a hotel should be scared of Trip Advisor. Everyone can say they are great but when you are held to the standard of others, it is not as easy to get away with if it is not true.  I see the accountability to one another, which creates an inherent need to be better for students, as a positive. I continue to struggle why others wouldn’t see it the same way.

  • Barry Dyck

    As a teacher who has recently shifted from “virtual mentors,” including “Google is my friend,” to reflecting and sharing my thoughts through a professional blog, I understand the fear of making the leap to publicly connect. I’m currently reading David McRaney’s You Are Not So Smart and find it a powerful collection of self delusions that prevent us from being who we wish to be. In the face of rational choices, we often choose the lesser for reasons that we are not self aware. I’ll blog my observations when I’m done.

    By discussing our practice with those in our building, and with those online mentors whose practice we wish to more closely emulate, we can reduce our fear, increase our accountability, and provide improved learning experiences for our students.

  • Chris

    To be honest, it sometimes seems a bit daunting to read other’s blogs and their thoughts, ideas, and practices on education. I am frequently left feeling like I’m not doing things right, or not doing things enough. It’s good to know and understand that we are all in process, we all have different strengths. If there’s anything I’ve learned from the virtual professional development opportunities and ease of connectivity with other educators, it’s that everyone has something to teach us.

    • Jamie

      Hi Chris,
      At the beginning of my career, I found myself asking my principal at the time why I wasn’t able to A, B, C or D with my classroom but that I saw someone next door in another classroom perform all of the above. Do you know what he said to me? He said “the very fact that you are sitting there in front me asking yourself that exact question, tells me you’re doing a great job.”
      I think if you’re in the classroom for the right reasons, you can do no wrong as you’ll always be looking to improve from what you did yesterday… I think stagnation is our biggest enemy. I’ve always picked the brain of that one teacher that every student seemed to think was unbelievable in hopes to make my teaching methods and style a little bit better.

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  • Kristen Swanson

    The power of any device is that it allows us to connect to people and ideas. To that end, I think virtual mentors (whether they know it or not) are critical to all types of development and learning. That’s why sharing and honesty are so important in the digital space (at least for me as a learner). Thanks, as always, for the provocative post, George.

  • http://about.me/aaron.davis Aaron Davis

    Another great post George. I think that some teachers are unwilling to connect in fear that they maybe challenged and need to change. One of my prime reasons for getting online was to connect with other learners. I feel that it has been priceless in regards to my own development. So much more than what has been provided to me in house, sadly.

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