Right around the end of each school year I piece together a reading list for the summer, then I go to my school and public libraries and start clearing the shelves. COVID forced me to amass a summer reading list out of the books on my shelf at home. As a result, I managed to read several books that I have owned for months or decades. Some were better left on the shelf, but some have been a delight.
Even though schools and libraries are now open, I’m continuing the trend and recently picked up “The Buried Mirror” by Carlos Fuentes. Part history book, part Latin American polemic, I first read the book in its native Spanish (“El espejo enterrado”) in 1998. Some time later I bought the English version, put it on a shelf, and never looked at it again. Until now.
Fuentes opens the book with reflections on the relationship between Spain and the New World. Above all else, he characterizes the relationship as “a debate with ourselves.” In the process he evokes a W.B. Yeats quote:
And if out of our arguments with others we make politics, advised W.B. Yeats, out of our arguments with ourselves we make poetry.
Fuentes, p. 15
The original Yeats quotes is as follows:
We make out of the quarrel with others, rhetoric, but of the quarrel with ourselves, poetry.
Let’s not let slip the opportunity to quarrel with ourselves. Let’s, in every occasion possible, make poetry.
Whether you’re a “tow-the-line” individual contributor, an mid-level manager, or a change agent in your organization, you’ve probably found that the best way to curry favor with others in your organization is to bark about the perils of “change for change’s sake.” Your belief in the default status of the status quo gives you the air of an efficiency-minded pragmatist and as one that seeks to minimize inconvenience and discomfort for your colleagues.
But are you doing them, and yourself, any favors?
The phrase “change for change’s sake” presumes that the need for novelty is at the heart of unnecessary change. By that same logic, going out for a run without a destination is lunacy.
Just as jogging conditions our bodies (and as it turns out, our brains), adopting small change conditions us to acclimate to change when there’s no other alternative but to change. If you’re a jogger, you’re probably motivated by one of two factors:
long-term advantages: overall fitness, heart health, reduced likelihood of disease in your “golden years”
short-term advantages: ability to survive bear charges, muggers, and work-sponsored fun runs
By deliberately running without destination, joggers prepare themselves for the continuous, inevitable, long-term circumstances of age as well as the sudden, unforeseeable threats to the status quo.
Instead of decrying “change for change’s sake,” consider extolling “continuous preparedness for change.”
Your lungs, muscles, brains, and your institutions will thank you for it.
For decades students have benefited from the classroom practice of communicating with students from other cultures. Two decades ago email allowed that communication to be almost immediate. Chat, and then videochat gradually increased the value and the linguistic and social-emotional power of creating connections across borders.
A colleague recently forwarded me a blog post from the HI5 English School in Bétera, Spain. In the post the writer chronicles the connections that his students have forged with students at my school. Seeing pictures of my students and athletes projected on a screen in front of engaged and curious Spanish schoolchildren deepens my understanding of how powerful (and how necessary) this practice truly is.
When I see a student from another school projected on a screen in one of our classrooms, she is a novelty. A fun, interesting, and potentially meaningful artifact (please forgive me for referring to a person as an artifact) of student learning. When I see MY kid (let’s call her Lucy) projected on their screen, I see a child, one of many at my school, LIFTED UP as a representative of the school. What makes Lucy unique and lovable in our community makes her equally well-regarded to that far-flung group of students. And even better, she projects that image on our school as a whole.
I saw MY WORLD through the eyes of someone else today. It made me realize how important it is to share my world with others. And to welcome their world into mine.
It’s Pablo Picasso’s Guérnica, and there are countless conversations to be had in every square foot of this painting (the painting itself is 11 feet x 25 feet). One would only describe Guérnica as a drawing of a horse if they chose, quite deliberately, to ignore the story, the intensity, the context, and the purpose behind Picasso’s craft and his process. Continue reading “On jargon, professional language, and gazing upon the art of teaching”→