Monday, February 25, 2008

An Unreasonable Man

This year is been very difficult for me because I have tried to change my approach to my job as a computer resource specialist. I have worked very hard to drop my flexible, bend over backwards for everyone- attitude and force my beliefs about technology and education onto my staff. In effect, I became the unreasonable educator described in Sylvia Martinez' Generation Yes Blog entry the other day. I had decided to attempt this unreasonable educational position at the very beginning of the year, long before the post. While I believed that I could stick with my convictions because it was the right thing to do, the living of that experience was not as easy as I thought. I was wavering.

When I saw Ms. Martinez' unreasonable educator entry, I thought, "Maybe I am right. I just need to stick to my guns and man-up." I had my doubts about the direction that I had been taking almost since beginning my "unreasonable" implementation. I believed that I was just too wishy- washy, but now I felt I had a backer. She is someone who is a paid expert in instructional technology. Certainly, I must be onto something if someone who gets paid for a living to support people in my position, is of the same mind as little old me.

Meanwhile, up until this point, I felt that I had become an outcast in my own school. Maybe this was just a way for the teachers to postpone the inevitable. They would come along any day. But it did not happen, so this blog entry revitalized me.

I felt that I did not need to try out being super nice to people, as others had suggested. I had attempted this in the past and felt as though everyone used me as a welcome mat. Now, I was determined. The force of my will would be strong enough to get through anything, plus the fact that I am right- even if no one else sees it. I was a visionary, a pioneer, like Davy Crockett.

Then I come back to Generation Yes a couple of days later and I see the entry titled Creating Successful Change. And I am wondering, what kind of wonderful things will be in there today? But after reading it I was more confused than ever. In the post Ms. Martinez seems to be in direct conflict with her earlier post. The first was all about keeping your vision and doing the right thing no matter what. No negotiation. But this new post emphasized creating consensus with the group that you are serving (directing, working with?) to support your personal vision as a major theme. You must have a clear vision and share it, get the group to support you, yet not become authoritarian. Isn't a group consensus a negotiation?

You must recall that Good ole Davy, "King of the Wild Frontier," died when the Alamo was over run by Mexicans. So I am now picturing myself standing on the wall of the Alamo in my Coonskin hat, firing off concessions, while the fort is being invaded by non-native technology users. The end is near.

Immediately I posted a response to her blog, "I am confused. Isn’t your blog entry, “The art of being an unreasonable educator,” in direct conflict with what you are saying in, “Creating successful change?” Please clarify."

Ms. Martinez was kind enough to respond, "I don’t think so. I think part of being unreasonable means that you can maintain a stronger vision. In my head, unreasonable is different than authoritarian. I think being unreasonable pushes you up higher on the vertical control axis in this diagram (she has a diagram of her theory). And like I said, this drawing is just a thought. I’m happy to listen to ideas about adjusting it."

Obviously, I am not an expert on technology, education, or any combination of the two, but I do have some experience here. I am a practitioner, but I am not the master. How could I, the grasshopper, help her, the master, with her theories? She does not see my point, but to me it is as obvious as the fact that day and night are opposites.

So, I am back to square one. Perhaps, when you get right down to it, I am the problem at my school. I have eyes but do not see. I don't know what to think anymore. I am what the Buddhists' call, "in my sleep of ignorance." Hopefully, I will awake soon and discover the true nature of reality. This may, in turn, lead me to find the Middle Way and accept a true practice of non extremism relating to using technology in education.

Or, maybe I'll just hit the snooze button and roll over.


Lisa said...

Just hit the snooze button!
You worry too much.

Your blog entry was interesting and I've never seen you as unreasonable.

sylvia martinez said...

Hi Al,
I'm glad my blog posts got you thinking - but really, my posts are about different ways to look at pieces of the same issue.

My use of the word "unreasonable" was meant to help people give themselves permission to stick their guns when advocating for technology. I have the feeling this resonated with you. As you posted, I used the word "unreasonable" not in the sense of being mean or angry, or even rigid. I'm glad you felt validated to stick to your policy of "not bending over backwards" so much. I wrote this because I so often see tech advocates talk themselves out of great ideas. If a few people stuck to their great ideas a little longer, I think the result would be positive.

Now for the second poat about creating successful change. Maybe it represents a way to look at a bigger picture, the sustaining part of the change. After you've stuck to your guns, how do you keep it up? You can't be a total autocrat, you do have to work with others. You also can't always have perfect consensus because that often leads to endless meetings where nothing really ever happens. So where does that balance lie?

By drawing a chart like that, it sort of implies that there are only two variables that matter -- of course that's not true. If only life were that simple! But simplifying a situation often gives us insights that prove useful.

Sorry about the long response, but I appreciate the opportunity to think out loud with you.

Al said...

Ms. Martinez- I am honored that you would post a response on my blog.
I attribute my inability to reconcile the differences between your two posts with the fact that I can not find my own balance between to the two ideas. Both are valid approaches that can work together, but I don't think that I am managing things well. This is my weakness. I understand the technology, the curriculum, and how to teach. The problem is my lack of management/administration skills. I want a single path that will allow me to handle all the personal issues and make everything work to fit my vision, but life does not work that way.
Part of the excitment of this educational technolgy profession that I am lucky enough to be a part of, is the working out of all of these individual personal issues. The main goal of having everyone on the same page with regard to the application of instructional technology may never be reached, but the daily struggle with the small successes makes it all worthwile.
Once again thank you for taking the time to respond to my post. You are free to take up as much space in the comments area as you want to!

sylvia martinez said...

will do ;-)