There are moments in this most surreal life that I’m now leading when I’m standing in front of more than a few hundred educators in a large, dimly lit auditorium and this eerie, palpable feeling of discomfort settles in around me. Sometimes, I know, I feel like I push too many buttons. Other times, I feel like I don’t push enough. It depends on the place, the people, the purpose. But when it happens, when I’ve managed to say just enough to almost force those who are still listening to consider some of the (I think, at least) challenging questions I’m asking, this feeling presents itself in this kind of eerie quiet where the only sound I seem to hear is that of arms folding in defense or heads bending in despair. It’s that “digging in” moment where I know now from doing this over and over and over again that a good chunk of the audience is not happy.
I had one of those moments, one of those audiences recently, one where while I think the majority of people in the room walked away challenged in a good way, many also walked away angry in a not so good way. The “yeah, buts” were out in force. And I know that their anger isn’t directed so much at me as it is the reality of schools, the reality of the change, and the reality of the difficult conversations we need to start having. (I’m reminded of Chris Lehmann’s Tweet yesterday that read “When trying to explain how much has changed and how schools must change… where do we start?” Amen.) But in this case, that anger came out in some really remarkably interesting ways that challenged the message and the messenger.
Yesterday’s Newsday had an article that said that a recent survey showed 61% of us “would prefer a “computer therapist” who is compassionate and easy to talk to” instead of the typical tech support person. And “52% said they felt “anger, sadness, alienation” when dealing with their most recent computer problem.” Or the most recent in-service technology speaker, I would guess. The new term is “innovation overload.” I feel that too.
But we as educators have to tackle this stuff. My own anger at times comes from the fact that I’m not talking to a room full of plumbers or software engineers or CEOs, people who aren’t working with kids every day helping them (I hope) become literate navigators of this increasingly challenging world. (Read yesterday’s New York Times article “An Internet Jihad Aims at U.S. Viewers” if you want a sense of just how challenging.) We’re educators, for goodness sake. Educate! Innovate! Where is the innovation overload for schools???
In other news, the Times today reports “that all 6,063 [California] public schools serving poor students will be declared in need of restructuring by 2014” when NCLB requires proficiency in math and reading.
Yeah. Let’s just dig in and stick with what we got.