Friday, September 15, 2006

Did You Know?

A couple of days ago I showed Did You Know? by Karl Fisch at the end of a staff meeting in my elementary school. I had waited to show it at the end of a meeting, because it is a natural closer. I gave it a very brief intro and let it roll. I had been offered different times to show it at other meetings, but I went with Karl's suggestion to show and go. No discussion, just go on with your work, your day. Meeting over - no discussion.

In retrospect, I think this is a very powerful thing to do, if you have a striking point you would like folks to ruminate on, and if you can choreograph it just so. Discussion diffuses uncertainty and anxiety. Even if you don't find the answers, just defining a problem often makes it go away and makes it easier to forget about. If you want to leave people feeling uncertain, anxious, and wondering, do not allow discussion. I think this was Karl's intent. The musical score certainly followed that plan. Our music teacher immediately commented on the unresolved chord at the end, had to rush home to resolve it... I know this is no big revelation to professional speakers - but it is not the way we usually run staff meetings at schools.

During the show it was quiet, there were a few chuckles, soft wows, and so on, as you would expect. All responses I got in the last couple of days were positive, and full of thanks. It made my colleagues think - and question, which was what Karl intended, I'm sure. The question most clearly formed and spoken later was something along the lines of, "OK, so what do we DO?" We are concrete, elementary school teachers, after all :)

And in those afterward conversations I found myself more than once ready to leap on the soapbox much too quickly and eagerly, talking about things like "learning how to learn" "collegial collaboration", and "fearless, confident problem solvers" - at least with my third graders. Way too much for most to digest in a single encounter. Oh well, I figure at least they can see my passion - and assume this is something important enough to get the old geezer all worked up :)

Thank you Karl. Your presentation was very well received in my elementary school. I think my colleagues left the meeting with more on their minds than the every day rat race of teaching. It is good to move out and way from our narrow focus, regularly and often, to see the big picture of the world we are preparing our kids for. Your view of that big picture was a new one for many of us, and I thank you for passing it along.

1 comment:

Karl Fisch said...

It sounds like it got some great conversations started - which was indeed the intent in my own building.

I'm not sure my thinking on leaving them anxious and wondering was quite as well thought out as you surmise, but I was stumbling in that direction. But I'll certainly pretend that was the case from now on!

I think it is difficult when finally presented with an opportunity to talk about what we are so passionate about not to get on that soapbox. I constantly struggle with that as well, and hope that the obvious passion outweighs any overzealousness.

I find it interesting that the presentation is possibly having much more of an effect around the world than in my own building. If it wasn't me, I would find that both ironic and humorous, as well as an excellent example of the power of the read/write web. Since it is me, I still find those things, except for maybe the humorous part.