A LEATHER BLANKET ROUGHLY CUT IN THE SHAPE OF AFRICA

huffingon-bookI am approaching the six-month anniversary of my very first blog. For those of you who were the early pioneers of this vigorous enterprise… let me first salute you, then ask your patience while I share three personal discoveries that are having a significant impact on how I think about leadership and my school. I guess they are my “Blogging Discoveries”– lessons that you all learned a long time ago when neophytes like me were just stumbling along.

First, as I read the extraordinarily prolific writing of so many educators I have arrived back to a familiar place, right where I started when I first completed my student teaching at Mar Vista Jr. High School thirty years ago: that strangely refreshing realization that the more I learn, the more I learn that I don’t know squat. Whenever I get to that place, somewhere between bewilderment and humility, I become open to really, really growing.

fish-cartoonSecondly, I have discovered how much I hate to fish. I don’t eat a lot of fish, and so I have no use for sitting out on the Ocean Beach Pier all afternoon incubating pre-cancerous skin lesions. Besides, I don’t like killing living creatures. I don’t hunt either. So I blog. And I have discovered that blogging is very much like I imagine fishing to be. To catch fish, you have to have the right stuff, you have to hang it from the right hook, and you have to be ever so patient when the fish come trolling for dinner. And if they don’t come trolling, they either aren’t hungry or you have the wrong bait. That’s teaching for you.  And it’s blogging for you too-at least when you first get started and your name isn’t Eduwonkette.ob-pier

Finally, I learned form reading so many posts and joining in those blogospheric debates, that we all have one very cool thing in common– one noble thing: we all seem to want the very best for our students. And that is where it gets really interesting.

People write and argue and fuss with a passion,  and frequently – they are blinded by the utter certitude of their world view. It reminds me of that old allegory of the blind men and the elephant:

Six blind men encounter an elephant. The first touches its trunk and says that an elephant is like a palm tree, another touches its side and says that an elephant is like a rough wall. Another feels its tail and says that an elephant is like a piece of rope. Each comes into contact with a different part of the elephant and is convinced that their own explanation is correct and that the others are wrong. None of them realize that they are each experiencing just one part of the same elephant and that none of their explanations are complete.

elephant-men-2Not even the one who touches its ear and says “an elephant is a leather blanket…roughly cut in the shape of Africa.”

They may each be wise, but their blindness has prevented them from developing a broader view of the world. They could only understand the elephant in the context of an isolated feature… rather than as a magnificent creature that was the sum of its parts.

Clearly the “elephant” represents the educational system, about which we all know just enough to be dangerous. I don’t know which part of the elephant I hold or you hold but I figured this out:

When it comes to blogging and sharing perspectives on this very complex enterprise called education, we need the courage to realize that just because our ideas are criticized it doesn’t mean we are wrong. And conversely, we need the humility to recognize that just because we write it in a blog, it doesn’t mean we are right!

elephant-showerjpeg1

(This post has been simultaneously shared on Leadertalk)

 

Advertisements

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

One response to “A LEATHER BLANKET ROUGHLY CUT IN THE SHAPE OF AFRICA

  1. Hey Kevin!

    Great post! I love the 6 blind men analogy. This, I will memorize, because it is so applicable to so many things in life. Like you mentioned, the interpretation of a blog post.being an educational experience, subject to criticisms. However there is no right or wrong answer.

    Keep up the killer posts!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s