If a thing is worth doing …

Recently I’ve been involved in a leadership course around digital learning.  It’s been an incredible thing to be part of over a relatively short period of time.  I’ve been exposed to a lot of things that I’ve known for a long time (aspects of social media in learning, use of technology in the classroom, engaging means of using 21st century tools in education, online collaborative thinking via professional learning communities, etc.) and a number of new perspectives too.  I describe myself as someone that, generally speaking, embraces new ways of thinking and encourages more outrageous uses of technology in learning.  And yet, in the past I’ve ignored the fact that brushing off social media as largely a negative waste of time is doing the exact opposite.  For some reason, this particular course has got me worked up enough to have a rethink about my attitudes towards learning with technology and modelling my own online behaviours to others.  I suspect that this movement towards something new has been largely prompted by my embarrassment in realising that I haven’t moved on from the email age of the early 90s.  In an online sense, I’m getting old and irrelevant very quickly.

And so, this leadership course has been quite profound in the manner in which it has shifted me, at least for now.

In a practical sense though I’ve done a really bad job of it.  I haven’t completed the weekly tasks.  I’m yet to complete the final pieces of assessment (that are due tomorrow – yikes!).  Many of the readings got pushed to the ‘when I get all my reactive jobs finished’ pile and didn’t get a look in.  I’m actually usually pretty good at all that stuff too.  I find the time, and this time I haven’t been able to.  In every academic sense I’m actually failing to complete what I need to.  I find myself metaphorically wrapped up in a ball of guilt.  But in so many respects that may or may not be visible to the facilitators of the program, I’ve found many aspects of personal success via my involvement.

All this brings me to a G.K. Chesterton quote that a wise friend me once shared with me:

“If a thing is worth doing, it is worth doing badly.”

I’ve done a lot of things in a half-baked manner in the past, but I think it’s only now that I’ve been able to put myself in the shoes of the learner who’s struggling and yet succeeding.  I wonder though, how often don’t we see this nuanced success in the learners in our classrooms.  The sustained impact of lessons, moments of inspiration and revelation, philosophical paradigm shifts – none of which can be measured by a test of academic achievement.  We need to ask the question “What is the sustained impact of this learning, how do I visibly recognise it and how can we celebrate it even though this student is ‘failing’?”  I’m not suggesting that large swaths of society are answering this well, but I’m sure that as an education system we rarely even engage in articulating a response.

So, how do I placate my grief around doing something so badly with respect to the leadership course?  Perhaps I should own the guilt as a future prompt to do better next time.  I also find some solace in a statement I heard this week from Michael Fullan, who I had the privilege of hearing f2f at a ‘New Pedagogies’ workshop in Melbourne.  He established what should surely be the priorities of all schools by simply stating:

“Be satisfied with getting a C in compliance as long as you’re getting an A in learning”.

And so, what remains for me personally is to see if I can wrest a C from the F I’m currently presiding over by completing a few more pieces of assessment tonight!

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