Anger

I’m no raving lunatic. Don’t get me wrong. Especially in a professional setting I can hold it together. At some point though I can feel IT overtaking me. Once that happens I find it difficult to dial it back.

I don’t know when IT is going to happen. IT just happens. I wouldn’t say there is some special trigger. It can be anything. It can be an innocent comment that just hits me the wrong way.

Unfortunately at that moment I am prone to saying things that I regret. Then, after it’s all over, the guilt washes over me.

“Happiness and freedom begin with a clear understanding of one principle. Some things are within your control. And some things are not.” – Epictetus

How do I do better in the moment between stimulus and response? How do I stop anger from taking over me? Or how do I get better at controlling my anger and using it to my advantage?

Anger is an emotion like any other emotion. It is neither good nor bad. It can be unhealthy. It can also be unhealthy to hold it back and not express it. Anger has its place just like every other emotion.

“If someone succeeds in provoking you, realize that your mind is complicit in the provocation.” – Epictetus

On The Daily Stoic podcast, Ryan Holliday interviewed the author Robert Greene. One of the topics they discussed was harnessing your anger.

Ryan Holliday used the example of coaches who get angry to invigorate their team through a difficult time in a game or season. As a former coach I have seen this done very well, and I have seen it done very poorly.

Robert Greene discussed how whether it goes well or poorly depends on if the coach has self-control and self-awareness. Can they step back and analyze their anger? Can they use it strategically to get the results they are after?

He goes on to say that only those people, that can pause in the moment between stimulus and response to analyze their emotions, are able to get the results they want. Only those that can channel their anger productively after analyzing why they’re angry will get the results they are after.

I am by no means there yet. However this is one of the things that I am really working on. I am sure if you ask my family, friends, and colleagues they may say it is not going so well, but I am a work in progress.

I must be more cognizant of the space between stimulus and response. Not everything needs an immediate reaction. I need to take the time to analyze my anger to see if it is justified and then if it is use it productively.

. . . or worse, the end of the world as they knew it.

That is a line from Ryan Holiday’s book The Obstacle is the Way. How often has that been said throughout history? This statement is heard daily during 2020, but does that mean that “the end of the world as they knew it” is a bad thing?

There are many things in education that can and need to be changed. Fortunately pandemic teaching has brought many of these issues to the forefront. The question is do we have the courage to change them.

Change is never popular and is always difficult. It is especially difficult in “easy” times, times when things are humming along. These times lead us to the mantra “but that’s the way we’ve always done it.”

I don’t think any of us would label the times we are living in as easy. Hopefully educators at all levels have taken, are taking, and will take the time to reflect on what positive changes we can take out of pandemic teaching.

It could be meeting more students where they are rather than where we would like them to be. It could be moving towards standards based grading. It could be empowering students to have more control over what they learn and we teach.

Nothing will ever be the same, but that is just life in general. The changes brought on by the pandemic have been more abrupt than say some in the past, but the world is constantly evolving. We need to take this opportunity to create positive change.

Will we take “the end of the world as they knew it” and make the world better than it was before?

“If You Always Do What You’ve Always Done, You Always Get What You’ve Always Gotten.” – Jessie Potter taken from Robert Glazer’s Friday Forward email newsletter 12/18/2020

Reasoned Choice

“You don’t have to get ready for the 2020-21 school year this weekend- just Monday. Make mistakes, learn a lot, regroup- then, Tuesday.” – Mark Savage, @MSavageWCPSS, Twitter

This quote rings just as true now as it did in August and September. The world of educating children in a COVID world changes on a dime. Who is quarantined? How do teachers teach or students learn from home when everyone else is in school? How can we make the best decision for the health and safety of students and staff on limited information? However we don’t have to have all the answers on Monday.

“A good person is invincible, for they don’t rush into contests in which they aren’t the strongest . . . For the only contest the good person enters is that of their own reasoned choice. How can such a person not be invincible?” – Epictetus, Discourses, 3.6 5-7

We have to take the facts that we have and make the best decision for the most people. These decisions may not be the easiest decisions or the most popular decisions, but must be the most reasoned decisions. We must make the best decision for the most people. Reasoned choice.

We cannot control outside events. We can only control our reaction to what is put in our way. We can only control our decisions on how to deal with the obstacles thrown at us. Reasoned choice.

I think we can all agree. Kids need to be in school for social, emotional, and academic reasons. We are proving that with reasoned choice in the protocols we put in place in person school can be done safely even during a pandemic. We can do this not by being blown about by every negative news story, Tweet, or Facebook post. But by looking at what is actually going on in our schools and adjusting what we do if need be to keep student and staff healthy and safe.

Reasoned choice.

Empowerment

All three of the ideas I have spoken about in my last three blog posts, passion, inquiry, and understanding, have brought me to this final idea of empowerment. Wouldn’t now be the right time to empower teachers and students to remake education into what it could and should be?

You might say: Now? The right time? With all the uncertainty? Well there never is a right time. We always wait until the right time, but it never comes. We push things off because it’s not the right time, and then guess what nothing ever happens. But isn’t now as good a time as any?

Uncertainty is the rule, not the exception. It’s how we respond to the uncertainty that matters. That is a major tenet of Stoicism. We need to make teachers and students feel safe in taking risks in adjusting their teaching and learning in response to this uncertainty.

Whether we are in schools or in remote learning, the only people who really know what is going on in any classroom are the teacher and the students. Shouldn’t we empower them to make the decisions that are best for them?

We must allow them to use their passions to make classrooms and learning relevant. Empower them to look at curriculum through their lens and make adjustments that personalize the learning to them.

“Working hard for something we don’t care about is called stress; working hard for something we love is called passion.” – Simon Sinek via The Innovator’s Mindset by George Couros

We also must encourage our teachers and students to question everything. Powerful questions are what drives innovation in any industry. Teachers and students should be asking questions that further their own teaching and learning. They are at the ground level of what can be done to make our classrooms, either virtual or in person, better.

“You don’t have to hold a position of authority to ask a powerful question.” – Polly Le Barre via A More Beautiful Question by Warren Berger

If teachers and students are encouraged to us their passions and ask their own questions, they will develop a deeper understanding of whatever they are studying. They can use that understanding to push education forward toward what we envision: equity in opportunities for all children. They will also be happier in the process. What will you do this year to empower teachers and students to make education better?

“I encourage you to commit to empowering the people you serve to be part of the process of finding and solving problems.” – George Couros, The Innovator’s Mindset