What’s Keeping You From Doing What’s Right?

I had to be honest with myself. My ego was the problem. I am breaking my bad habit one day at a time.

I have a confession.

Sometimes I text and drive. I know. I know. It is a completely unnecessary and dangerous habit. I might as well be driving drunk.

My friends have been trying to get me to stop for quite some time. They send me articles, YouTube videos, Apps, and lecture me. They have provided empirical and anecdotal evidence time and time again, and although I have logically received the messages, nothing has worked.

I know what is right. But I am not doing it.

It was the latest attempt at an intervention that something clicked. Watch this video my friend, Shannon, asked. I am not going to watch it, I said matter-of-factly.

“Unfortunately, a video won’t make me stop,” I said. I don’t know why. I have to figure out the why. And once I figure out the why, I am sure I can stop without further interventions.”

Why do I text and drive? It’s simple, really. I don’t think anything is going to happen to me. I think that I have it all under control. It’s a fallacy to think that way, completely ludicrous.  But now that I have a handle on the why, I can take true steps forward.

Like all things in my life, I make immediate connections to education. What does this mean for us as teacher leaders?

I deliver professional development for a living. My job is to provide teachers will philosophical, empirical and anecdotal evidence day after day in hopes that it influences teaching practice. It could be the most impactful, up-to-date, significant research in education and for some teachers it just doesn’t lead to any change.

Arghhhhhhhhhhhhhh! How frustrating! *Val shakes her fists in righteous indignation.*

But there is hope.

At my latest PD, I shared my texting and driving struggles and was honest about my why. Then I asked teachers to anonymously share on an exit ticket why they do or don’t want to continue working in professional learning communities and critically analyzing student work.

I honestly didn’t expect any teacher to write, No, because I don’t like my colleagues and I don’t think working with them is valuable. However, I did symbolically hold up a mirror and ask them to examine their beliefs and actions. I don’t know what they saw when I held up the mirror, but I forced them to look.

I also opened myself to their honest feedback about the professional development. It made me feel vulnerable, but how else does one improve except through feedback? The good news is only about 12% of the teachers (5 out of 42) thought the work was too time consuming. Everyone else wrote that they enjoyed learning from their colleagues, “being on the same page,” and “knowing that we are in it together.” We left the sticky notes posted in the room so that when the school year gets tough – and it will – teachers can be reminded of their commitment to the students, the work, and each other.

Looking in a symbolic mirror – to examine if your actions align with your beliefs – can be uncomfortable some times. But it is necessary. Previously, Dr. Deidre Gammill wrote this very poignant piece about her journey to do the same that I am still thinking about.

As teachers and teacher leaders, we have to align our actions with what we say we believe. It’s not enough to know. We have to do. We can’t let bad habits in our practice rule over us. We have to break the bad habit one experience at a time.  Finally, as Simon Sinek proclaims, we have to figure out our why in everything we do–and don’t do. Frankly, if the why is because of our egos, maybe it is time to get over ourselves.

So the next time you are faced with a chance to use your expertise to weigh in on a policy, working with a challenging colleague, determining whether or not you should share an innovative idea, or deciding if you should take a risk and try something new in your teaching practice – hold up the mirror, figure out your why, and take a step forward.