‘Please stop waiting for a map. We reward those who draw maps, not those who follow them.’
Reading Seth Godin’s excellent book, ‘Poke the Box’ this week gave me a wee jolt, one I had not been expecting. I always find his work thought –provoking, even inspiring, but this one hit home on many levels. I read books like this with one eye on my personal life and one on my teaching life. I like to think that I can always push myself onto a new level, can enjoy myself on a more satisfying level ; but I also want to improve as a teacher, an educator, a colleague and a professional.
With this in mind, Godin’s book led me to some interesting thoughts about the current journey towards the Curriculum for Excellence in Scotland. Godin’s main thrust is that the biggest block to progress is a reticence to ‘do’ things while spending too much time preparing, discussing, chin scratching. As he says: ‘Whether polishing a piece of furniture or an idea, the benefits diminish quickly. The polishing turns into stalling.’
I began to think of the times I’ve spent on Working Groups, Teacher Learning Communities and others such bodies. All well- intentioned, some fantastic in terms of collaboration if not product , or product if not collaboration. Some relatively pointless. Familiar tale?
Godin discusses in detail the effects of this lack of action in large organisations. Without moving forward you don’t stand still, you go backwards. If management block or fail to encourage progress and creativity then it becomes all the more difficult for these organisations to move and react to large necessary changes.
Could this be one of the real problems with the less than smooth transition to Curriculum for Excellence? Could it be argued that teachers have been discouraged from thinking freely and acting creatively for so long that the profession finds it difficult to suddenly be ‘given’ so much freedom? Have we been pinned back so much that we simply cannot, as a collective body, ‘poke the box’?
It seems that we have been discussing the implications of the Curriculum for Excellence for years. Our cupboards have some lovely looking folders filled with some beautifully produced documents. We have unpacked outcomes alone and with colleagues. We have, perhaps, created new units of work, cross-curricular on occasion. And there are some wonderful things going on out there. However, as a profession, is it time we all stopped the discussion and started as Godin says, ‘taking the initiative to do work you decide is worth doing’?
A final quotation for ‘Poke the Box’ sums it perfectly. He recalls Scott Fitzgerald’s line from Jay Gatsby, attempting to impress the already lost Daisy.
“What would be the use of doing great things if I could have a better time telling her what I was going to do?”
And we all remember what happened to him, don’t we?