BLC15 has just finished (Building Learning Communities conference) and my head is spinning with inspiration and enthusiasm. So many people ‘out there’ making a difference by having a ‘big hairy audacious goal’ (Jim Collins, Good to Great). The final keynote of the conference was given by Jenny Magiera (@MsMagiera), a name new to me. Jennie Magiera is the Chief Technology Officer for Des Plaines School District 62, previously the Digital Learning Coordinator for the Academy for Urban School Leadership and a Chicago Public Schools math teacher.
Jenny talked about making meaningful change and her presentation began with a challenge to us all to get some ‘moonshot thinking’ happening. Check out the Youtube video to get the main idea.
Moonshot thinking and great big hairy audacious goals are best friends – they challenge us to think beyond what is possible, to choose to be bothered by what is not possible; to set out to make a difference even though it looks pretty impossible to do. The message from Jenny and the video is that with courage, persistence and passion, you are unstoppable. This thinking finds a home with the work of Carol Dweck on Mindsets (@mindsetworks) and you’ll find her book at most online stores).
So what do we do with this challenge as educators. I think we set our students free from the constraints we place on them. Sometimes the teachers need to get out of the way and see what is possible. Be there to challenge, guide, pick up the pieces if need be but not to define the parameters. This is pretty scary for many teachers but I am not sure it is for our students. I don’t mean we throw them out there to ‘discover’, nor do we stop modelling, instructing etc – we just have to stop being so controlling and build the chance for challenge into our classrooms. We need to teach our students about ‘Moonshot thinking’. The biggest hurdle might just be learning to do it ourselves – well that’s mine anyway.
I suppose if you were called ‘Benedict Cumberbatch’ you would very rarely discover anyone with the same name. Unfortunately Mr and Mrs Savage from Griffith. New South Wales, already had a family name which, while not the most common, was a long way from being rare. As my parents, they lacked the enthusiasm for uniqueness to call me ‘Benedict’ (perhaps because this is not a name used in the Savage family, especially for girls). Instead they chose ‘Suzanne’ which gave me somewhat politically incorrect initials and the considerable chance that I would meet others similarly labelled. To make sure that I had no options, they decided not to provide a middle name.
Let me be clear: I am quite happy with my name and have never had any desire to replace it. I was quite satisfied to retain it when I married, and my husband seems content to be called Mr Savage when we travel and stay in rooms I have reserved. (He has been less enthusiastic about being called Mr Suzanne in some Asian countries where name order is confusing.)
Inevitably I have indeed crossed paths with others. When I graduated from university and registered for future employment with the local education department I was annoyed to find others gaining positions when they had waited less time. An investigation revealed that another Suzanne Savage had been employed before me and I was still well down the list in what should have been her position. On that occasion I didn’t really mind as I had begun to build a career elsewhere. But when a similar problem arose while waiting for membership of the Sydney Cricket Ground I made quite a fuss and sent the impostor to the bowels of the list, regaining my rightful place.
Sometimes, however, the battle can’t be won. There is in Ireland a very talented singer and musician who shares my name. As far as I can see she plays the guitar and keyboards, writes her own songs and sings like an angel. I can do none of these things.
She may well be a distant relative of mine. My family emigrated to Australia from the same area of Ireland around 150 years ago. If she is related I can only assume that she inherited her talent from her mother’s side. I have never known anyone in the Savage family who could sing any better than a badly wounded sheep.
If you are looking for a dose of some fine music I suggest you have a look for Suzanne Savage on YouTube. You are unlikely to find me there by mistake.
But if you want to talk about education then this is the right place. Hope to see you again soon. I promise the next blog will actually have something to do with education.