‘Good ideas have lonely childhoods’

Hugh McLeod reckons this is the best line he’s written in a long time. I don’t know Hugh’s work well enough to agree with him, but I do love this line. It made me pause in my tracks and reflect on the meaning it has for me.

I left work Friday exhausted. We’d been reliant on technology very heavily for our inquiry project with all of Yr 7 and things just didn’t swing our way. Like I said in a previous post, the kids were amazing; they weathered the difficulties and found ways around their problems. I think by Friday afternoon I’d lost perspective. I felt like I’d being rowing upstream and was finding it hard to stay positive. A phone call from a colleague when I got home helped. She posed these questions;

Were the kids engaged?

Did they find ways around their problems?

Did they learn something?

Yes to all the above. Watching a business show this morning clarified things a bit for me too. A CEO was talking about his business plan and how it was a model they aimed for, but invariably it didn’t work to plan with all of the variables that affected the growth of their company. He talked of how you need to be adaptable to changing circumstances because it’s the only way you are going to move forward.

These are skills our students need. If everything works to plan all the time then maybe we’re facilitating a learning environment that isn’t reflective of the world they are going to enter. Work requires you to be adaptive and to find ways around problems. This is exactly what my students were doing as they battled issues with technology. I suppose what worries me is the perception of other teachers about the difficulties we encountered. It’s hard trying to get them accepting of technology rich projects and I do want to see adoption in my school.

Which brings me back to Hugh’s line. Here’s what he said in his post;

1. “Good ideas have lonely childhoods”. When I say, “Ignore Everybody”, I don’t mean, “Ignore all people, at all times, forever”. No, other people’s feedback plays a very important role. Of course it does. It’s more like, the better the idea, the more “out there” it initially will seem to other people, even people you like and respect. So there’ll be a time in the beginning when you have to press on, alone, without one tenth the support you probably need. This is normal. This is to be expected. Ten years later, drawing my “cartoons on the back of business cards” seems a no-brainer, in terms of what it has brought me, both emotionally and to my career. But I can also clearly remember when I first started drawing them, the default reaction was “people scratching their heads”. Sure, a few people thought they were kinda interesting and whatnot, but even with my closest friends, they seemed a complete, non-commercial exercise in futility for the New York world I was currently living in. Happily, time proved otherwise.

I feel like I’m in the playground, sitting in the sandpit pretty much alone right now in terms of my thinking. Friends will come, they always do, they’re just hanging around the fringes. I need to draw a few more lines in the sand to attract a crowd. I’ll keep at it.

12 Replies to “‘Good ideas have lonely childhoods’”

  1. Jenny, there’s so much you’ve said and drawn on that will keep others going in their thinking and doing for a while. Whilst you may feel alone in your immediate physical space, others turn to your energy and ideas for support in their own.
    Hugh’s post is gold.

  2. Thanks for the feedback Tania. Think I needed to hear that from someone. If there’s one thing I’ve learnt over the past 8 months, it’s that exploring these ideas for education brings with it exciting possibilities and insights from others that keep you going. Your comment is one of those. Much appreciated.

  3. I know some of the things you are doing, and I think it was you who once said that this is the best staff room that you have ever been in or words to that effect. I truly believe that. With this tremendous ability to connect to so many like-minded teachers, perhaps those great ideas don’t have to have such lonely childhoods…I like the suggestion of asking yourself questions like the one your colleague posed…

    Were the kids engaged?

    Did they find ways around their problems?

    Did they learn something?

    It is about the kids, so keep up the good work…and keep up the great blog…I love reading your blog…

  4. Jenny I know exactly where you are at. Funnily enough, I was just pondering that I have been ‘pushing hard up a steep hill’ when I read your post. It is hard work pushing innovation and change…but if you believe deeply in what you are doing- If you KNOW that you are working towards improving student outcomes (and they may not necessarily be the outcomes of the 20th Century curriculum), if you KNOW that what you are doing will benefit your students and help them in their life journeys in the future…then it is all worth it…it is ‘real’…IT is what we as educators should be doing. Take comfort in knowing that your challenges are shared. I have found enormous support in the collaborative communities that share their journey online..particularly your input. Thanks for your sharing…I hope we can reciprocate what you have done for us!

  5. Wow Frances. That means something. There’s the pep talk I was needing. It’s like I said in my previous comment, every time I waver, something happens to bolster me up and help me get my thinking clear. I do have purpose and intent. I do think we are exploring ideas with so much applicability to the hardest subject of all – life .

  6. @Mr.A – thanks Jeff. It is so encouraging to know that you are in the United States and I’m here in Australia and yet we are able to support one another in this incredible staffroom of educators who believe that we are on the cusp of great change that will have wonderful implications for our students. (That was one very long sentence!) Thank you for reading and for taking the time to leave a comment. You’re right; we all share these great ideas- we’re in the sandpit building a castle!

  7. Those three questions are pretty important. Just remember you answered “yes” to all of them. That is very powerful. I can think of three equally important questions that are about you as a teacher that I have often think about when things don’t go to plan.

    1) Have you reflected on what happened?
    2) Have you shared your reflections, thoughts and feelings in a blog post and gained a different perspective on it all?
    3) Have you learned from the experience and perhaps know what you would do differently next time?

    I know you can answer “yes” to 1 and 2 which makes a huge difference in helping you understand number 3. And if you still cannot answer number 3 yet – let us know and we can help.

    Change rarely happens without someone taking calculated risks and reflecting on the whole process – keep going and keep inspiring 🙂

  8. Thank you Tom. Great questions -I think I have spent some time on question 3 and know that I have learnt from the experience and would tackle things differently. Reaching out to the network is always front and centre for me now- I know help is out there. I appreciate you taking the time out to post a comment. You, of course, being someone who takes calculated risks, reflects on his practice and inspires me!

  9. Jenny, step by step. You know that you are heading in the right direction. Your compass is quite okay. You are not working in isolation. There are ‘guardian angels’ out there ready to help. I see a number of them have responded already.
    Cheers, John.

  10. Thank you John. There is an aura of calm that surrounds your writing. I feel it every time I read a post of yours or see a tweet you put out there. I get a sense that you have the balance right. Your comment has helped to ground me.

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