Who signs up, stands up and antes up to fail?
For most people who live in education, it’s the everyday risk of learning that matters.
There is an epic chance that failure will be a part of the work day. The everyday moments in education are the juiciest. We pay close attention to all of it. The human factor and the beast that is learning hold our interest relentlessly. It has become part of who we are as learners and as documenters. We do this work together. We are unlikely and a curiosity to many, to each other. Andrea and I have been dancing around the beast for about a year and half. We opened a Google doc and started to put our beast feelings and documentation there. During January of 2018 we meet for 6 hours in a cold Starbucks and decide. The Beast is born. It will be us, what we notice, and how it changes us.
The first story is written. We wake at 4:45 am on a Monday morning and talk about it back and forth. We have talked so much and texted so many times that the Google doc flow is easy and real. We actually figure out a way to question and disbelieve and change our minds and change them again digitally. We were recently asked if it is edited before we publish? We laugh. I mostly sort out my interrupting of Andrea’s thinking so readers can follow our conversation and we take out the curse words. We think in colour. Andrea documents the conversation in a sketch note. We have a verbatim record of our learning and why we are changed from the story, the humans in our lives, and our conversation.
In The Beast we are going to share our learning, our documentation and to do this we have to hit the publish button. What we have done is as natural as breathing. We are wide open to anyone who chooses to read it. They are going to hand it back to us – the good, the bad, and the ugly. They will disagree, think we are full of something that is not nice and we are going to have to reconsider our precious learning. There is also an excellent chance we will fail. The blog, as we envisioned it, will not be well received nor read.
She texts me as she is contemplating the publish button. I have a very definitive moment when I rethink all of it. She presses it. 5 weeks later, today, I ask her why she did it? She says, because of you, you make me feel safe. I know. It’s her. She is my wingman and I am hers. “Critically mutual support during dangerous combat and assertive support which is key for mission success.” (jqpublicblog.com)
We are finding our conversations are getting a little more uncomfortable, deeper and less agreeable – sometimes impatient when they are stuck. We have had to go back and reread our earlier conversations as we had a moment recently when we knew something felt itchy as we seemed to be contradicting ourselves. We received valuable feedback from Chris Cluff and it set us back because we had to reconsider. It did not go as planned. We were deep in criticism of our own critical thinking and we were doing this learning publicly. We invite everyone to be part of our conversations, to participate and to push us. The more people who read, who want to sit beside us, the more unsure we get. Pressing publish is as scary as hell. We love that it hasn’t gotten easier. I hope it never does. We mustn’t ever be sure. We keep circling back around to our earlier blogs. We are not doing this to make sure we are not contradicting ourselves anymore. I think we have come to understand that we probably will have done just that, as we will have new thinking from the moments that change us everyday. It will not have gone as planned. We will have learned.
A: I didn’t expect to actually publish. We could have kept our thinking in the doc or in the nook – to ourselves. It happened so fast. Our ideas were out there. How did we get to the point where it needed to be public?
K: I thought a very long time about this question – the why? I went back to a planning meeting we had for a session in the little collaboration room in early December. I had to step out a few times to meet with people. We were a group of four and the giant sketch note was flowing from you and our conversation. Every time I left and came back a different person was in my chair. All different people who had nothing to do with this planning nor the meeting. They simply wanted to be in the room. They really wanted a sit beside – for the feeling, not the doing. I am not sure we felt need. I think we felt ready to throw what we were thinking out farther. The Beast was growing – incubating.
A: I remember that day. Our friend told us that she was amazed at how long we stayed – how long it took for us to contemplate our purpose. We don’t start the slides until the why is done. I have to say though, I felt a need. I know this kind of itch well. It really is an itch that I don’t know what to do about. The only thing I know for sure is that I have to make something.
K: We had tossed around writing a book – we love the feeling we get when we sit in a place contemplate – we don’t know how to rush into the doing – the activities. That is always part of the conversation. I am trying to figure out why we both went away on the holidays with a book in our heads and came to Starbucks and simultaneously – literally – and threw out blog. I think the blog is like our whiteboards – I never want to erase them – I always want more time. I don’t want to be finished. We love love love when people come and sit in our chairs. We want, maybe crave, the bumping and the questions and that moment we get up after they have left and change our thinking just because they walked in the room. The Beast became that … everyone is in the words with us.
A: The Beast is undone. It is unraveling as we go along. You are right, like a whiteboard, we are still in process. We are in the process of thinking and learning and unraveling all of the threads. Those chairs are new perspectives and I really love inviting them in. Now we have so many more perspectives…
K: This week, we spent the day with educators, thinking and creating a knowledge building wall over the course of the learning. I am always struck as to the feeling when I have to take it down at the end of the day. It feels awful, like it’s over. When the educators are leaving and taking pictures of it, I know they love the feeling of seeing their learning and what happened because they were in that room with other learners and thinkers. The Beast is a way we don’t have to erase.
A: The Beast is us, you and me, learning. I bumped into an old friend at the grocery store. She said it feels like she’s intruding on something too personal. That’s what she loves. You keep pushing each other, she said. Why does it seem surprising to have thinking documented? Someone asked me yesterday why it would be a challenge to get the thinking out there – to see the learning happening during the learning itself.
K: We read Carlina again yesterday. I realized that the documentation of the learning of the children is NOT just for the students. I thought about it again last night. When you stand up and walk to the whiteboard we all change. We transform. I watch everyone in the room lean in. Getting the thinking out there is easy when you say – I want to really hear you. You snap the lid off of the marker and people change right in front of us. They are skeptical for a few minutes of they are new to the feeling but give themselves over. It’s why we didn’t know yesterday. We didn’t have an opportunity to be in that place with them – documenting their thinking. It’s why people all of a sudden have time to plan with us. They want to think out loud and be heard and bump up against us. We do not defend our thinking. We leave it open to be changed.
A: Wow, thank you. I seriously couldn’t figure out why I felt so empty. This has happened twice in the past week. I present to a room full of mostly strangers and I don’t get to find out what they are thinking. We don’t have time to set conditions and linger so that everyone is heard.
K: There is no backsy forthsy. We cannot seem to stay in the feeling in that type of public learning. We need to figure out how to pull people into towards us in groups that size. I have thought about how we could capture the thinking like you do – don’t think I didn’t remember how many overhead projectors are floating around. I want everyone to see their thinking matters. The impact of changing because of the time and the knowledge building rather than sharing from your table. The Beast lets us linger but also lets everyone else linger too.
A: Backsy forthsy is the conversation and it’s hard to have a conversation from the front.
K: It is. It also is very hard and takes time. It requires some productive conflict and wait a minute and a hold on and being open to being changed. Learning publicly in large groups gets us all together but the conditions for learning at your table are simply not the same. We learn, maybe more publicly when we press publish but all of the juicy conditions are simply sitting there for the taking and the giving.
A: That wait a minute is a thing. It’s putting value on the way someone extends the thinking. Slow down to listen to that. Stop. Capture it, circle around it, connect it, lean into it.
K: The arrows on the board make the questioning of the thinking very personal but not a personal attack. They are the ‘we want to think about this some more’ not ‘we are trying to change your thinking or your mind’. We know beliefs are very personal. We are really open to figuring out what they mean beside our own. They change us, even if we don’t change our minds. It is simply not about DOING that.
A: Beliefs are very personal, but I feel like they are whipping past. It’s a constant storm of opinions, tweets, and posts. Sometimes I find it hard to stay grounded. Don’t get me wrong I do want to change and get bumped and listen. But, I want to see the evolution in colour. When I reread The Beast, it’s all there. I have to first know who I am. Does that make sense??
K: I think it’s why we didn’t start with a book. I am back at Starbucks in December. We love the evolution. We don’t want to be finished. But we also know that we are not in a battle. I won’t enter into one. I am not fighting to defend my thinking or anyone else’s. I want to mash it all together. Some of it comes from the storm. It has to. But I think we ground each other and we are very lucky to have people who sit beside us and do that as well. We don’t pull back in a storm, it’s The Beast.
A: I’m wondering if everyone knows that it’s not defensive. Jesse Wente talks about how we might sit in circle. We have to know that we hold onto hierarchies. I don’t think that we are accustomed to thinking on the same plane with others, with our learners, in our boardrooms, and in our institutions.
K: Ironically I thought we ACTUALLY had to sit in a circle. I have been in that circle and I have heard the defensive regardless of the seating arrangement. I believe in my heart that the learning model sets the conditions for learning. The people listening set the conditions for learning and the people documenting thinking set the conditions for learning. Learning meaning I am changed for having been in this place with you. There are no chairs in The Beast but the sit beside is important, it lives and breaths and it invites.
A: What about “the get”?
K: I feel a little selfish. You are my get – The Beast. Pressing publish is hard but not learning is harder. I read over the first part of our conversation again. I was wrong. I need.
A: That is The Beast. We cannot let it go unnoticed. I may enter a room or a blog thinking I will walk away with a strategy, a tool, or a resource, but I won’t get what I need until I’ve learned. I’ve learned when I’ve felt the why. I absolutely crave the connectedness. I want to make something new. I want it to be because of you. Pull my heart in like a magical picture book.