“What are the next right steps?” my Wise Friend asked me at the end of our conversation yesterday. And for the first time in a very long time, I could see them clearly and name them. The only thing that isn’t clear is when they will happen, and a few details about how are still unclear. But for the first time in a very long time, we seem to be moving from vision to action.
But to be fair, it hasn’t been all vision for the past few years. Developing the Tres Columnae Project stories and other material … that took a lot of thinking and clarifying, but it also took a lot of writing and revision. And once the core stories and characters were in place, as other contributors started producing stories and other “stuff” with and for us, they took action … and i took action in other ways as I suggested edits and improvements. One of our partner schools “just happened” to ask for a “real” Scope and Sequence document for the core materials, and that work (which I began in earnest yesterday and will be continuing today, after I finish this post) will require action as well as vision. And what about the Gifted Homeschoolers Forum courses? They won’t start for a few more weeks, but preparing for them obviously requires action as well as vision.
Can you really separate action from vision anyway? This Google+ conversation started out with a share of an infographic about “instilling” intrinsic motivation … and a question on my part: Is it really possible to instill intrinsic motivation into somebody? The infographic lists actions to take in pursuit of a vision, and in the subsequent conversation we clarified our terminology and our vision because the actions involved are important. Although he wasn’t very happy with the word he chose, Marc wondered about some teachers’ “ability to arouse real passion for new topics in their students,” and I wondered if what we were talking about is really an ability:
If I had the ability to get students passionately interested in a new topic, wouldn’t that mean that 100% of my students would leave me with, say, a passionate interest in the Latin language, or Roman history, or the connections between “us” and “them?” To be fair, many do … but not 100%.
What I can do, at least once we’ve built a sense of trust and community, is to help students see connections between something they love and something about Latin or the Romans. And that, in turn, can grow into a more general interest or fascination, and it often does.
I still don’t want to say I have an ability or even an aptitude for helping students discover those connections that spark intrinsic interest. It’s more like a carefully developed skill … though I suppose it was easier for me to develop it because of a particular pattern of abilities and aptitudes.
Does that make sense?
It did … and one important thing about this conversation is that we weren’t just clarifying for its own sake or, as my friends Ms. X and Mr. Y might have thought, arguing about semantics … or “wasting time on a bunch of stupid terminology that doesn’t mean anything and just confuses people,” as I think One Ms. X said to me one time. (If it’s the Particular Ms. X I think it was, and if my memory doesn’t deceive me, she didn’t see any conflict between that attitude and her daily practice of requiring students to memorize textbook definitions verbatim, but that’s a story for another day.) If That Ms. X or anybody else asked, I’d argue that Marc and I weren’t “wasting time” at all with our conversation. We were seeking clarity so that our actions could be guided by a clear, realistic vision.
It “just happens” that this week’s “Chapter” of the DO School Startup Lab MOOC from iversity is all about moving from vision to action, and specifically about getting the money to make a social venture really happen. Over and over, the presenters emphasize the importance of being extremely clear … about what you’re doing, why you’re doing it, what the best funding sources would be, how specifically to approach them, what to ask for, how to maintain relationships. Vision without action is a sad, empty dream, but action without vision is a recipe for trouble. To be effective, to make a real difference in the long term, you need action and vision together. That’s what I’m trying to achieve as I move forward with all the projects I’ve been describing, and with the one that I still can’t describe in detail.
I have a suspicion that balancing action and vision is easier in a joyful learning community than in a hierarchy, especially the kind of fear-based hierarchy that’s still so common in factory-model schools. Many A Ms. X and Mr. Y I’ve known has clung to the Same Old Same Old out of fear … fear of what The Powers That Be might say or do, fear of “making a mistake” and “getting yelled at,” fear of a perceived failure that would “make you look bad,” sometimes even fear that the New Thing would actually work, and then you’d feel bad for not having tried it before. But what about a non-fear-based hierarchy? Could such an organization be faster and more effective at balancing action and vision than a joyful learning community with all its necessary, but sometimes slow and frustrating disagreements and conversations about both vision and action?
What do you think? How do you balance action and vision in your daily work? And how do you move from vision to action when it’s clear that the time is right?