Choose a Different Shore

Choose a different wave

Every time I spend time at my timeshare in Kauai, I watch surfers. Being across the street from the ocean I have a clear view of the waves hitting the beach. I have asked surfers, ‘how do you know which wave to catch?’ Many answer experience, some say watch difference from the horizon, and some say it is the pattern of 5-7 waves that seem to be the best. Not being a surfer, none of this makes a lot of sense to me except experience.

As we know from Bandura, unconscious competence is very hard to learn from. It seems like magic. I have often said in workshops if the teacher cannot move to conscious competence, thereby being able to identify and express specific moves, do not have them as mentors for less experienced teachers. They really can’t tell you what they do. Less experienced teachers can watch, do exactly the same moves, and get different results. There are just too many decisions that are invisible to someone observing.

Michael and Judy Ayers, former parents in school where I was principal, came to stay for the week in Kauai. I told Michael about how I am trying to understand surfers and how they know which wave to catch. The next morning Michael, back on the lanai, he made comments about school change and watching the waves.

1. All the waves coming in hit the same shore.
2. If you want to go to a different shore, you would have to ride a different wave going a different direction.
3. If you want to go to a different shore, you might have to find a way to travel to a different set of waves

I started thinking about how many programs we have implemented over my 40 years and they are designed to hit the same shore. There have been waves of leadership strategies e.g. Theory X (kiss up and kick down), Theory Y (everyone makes the decision), reflective coaching, instructional coaching, thinking skills, thinking maps, rote memorization, no recess, no art, and the list goes on. Many of these waves are good and will be helpful to get to another shore. Look at Hattie’s work. How are most of these things working for us? Is going to the same shore where we want to end up?

Here is my interpretation. Many say schools are not keeping up with what is needed for our future economy, our country, or for a future we can’t predict. I have said that our educational system is at an x = y graph line (sorry my physics/math is showing). I think we need to be at an x = y2 or maybe x = y3 or greater.

We educators continue to find new waves of programs and structures to get better results but we are still going to the same shore. If we want to go to a different shore, DUH, ride a different wave, in a different direction or find some vehicle to go to a different shore.

It has been said, Insanity Is Doing the Same Thing Over and Over Again and Expecting Different Results. (I have seen this quote attributed to Einstein but a search did not give confirmation). However, we continue to look for methods that squeeze another couple of points more for test scores. Test Scores? Really? Has anyone been hired because of their SATs, ACTs, GMAT, etc?.
As I read Lazlo Bock (2015), former HR director at Google, and articles based on hiring practices of Apple, Microsoft, etc. they are focusing on hiring people who can do the job versus their degrees. I read recently that only 25% of the jobs will require a college degree. If you follow Ted Dintersmith or Tony Wagner, they are concerned that we are focusing on test scores at the expense of thinking and doing.

Think about this, our preK – 12 keeps focusing on test scores and going to college. Approximately 35% of those going to college complete in four years. About 50% complete in six years. Are these results enough to keep focusing on college as the end point? I am not against college. Both of my kids were successful college students. Neither are working in their majors and being flexile learners has served them well. I didn’t say perfect. Life is not perfect or a straight line.
Tom Friedman, several years ago, wrote an article called ‘The Untouchable.’ His premise was we need to educate people so they will survive and thrive as the world changes? He was on to something then and it is a valid question today.

So, how much money have people spent on college, how many complete, how many are prepared to work in the future? I want kids to be college, career, and community ready. That is a wider vision for a changing world. I don’t want really smart kids without ethics. Communities need people who are prepared to contribute to our country and the global challenges ahead.

Maybe it is time to find a different shore? Maybe it is time to ride a different wave? Maybe it is time to find ways to travel to a new land? Angeles Arrien: If your job is waking up the dead, GET UP TODAY IS A WORK DAY.

Bock, Lazlo. (2015). Work Rules. New York: Twelve

Dintersmith, Ted. (2018). What School Could Be. Princeton, NJ: Princeton
University Press.

Friedman, Tom. The New Untouchables. New York Times OP-ED. October 21, 2009

Wagner, Tony & Dintersmith, Ted. (2015). Most Likely to Succeed.
New York: Scribner


Shift Happens. If you don't adopt New Rules, drop the "f" in Shift!