A rant about teaching and violence

I’m stunned at these comments in these Facebook threads. Just stunned. The 40 year old who loses control and beats up a teen is somehow the victim in all of this…Really?

Sure, we can broaden the conversation about how stressful it is to be a teacher these days. I get it, there are students that want to push your buttons and be one step over the lines you draw. (These are important topics to discuss but hardly the reaction when a teacher physically assaults a student.

But “back in my day…”. Stop it. Go back one more generation and we were segregating who could use the drinking fountain based on their skin color. Another favorite, “and we turned out just fine.” Reality check: We are the most in debt, most obese, most heavily medicated and most unhappy adult cohort in human history. And the planet is being destroyed.

This hits home since we work with so many students that have been labeled by administrations/faculty as “bad kids.” I just don’t believe it.

Labels are a dangerous thing to put on youth. What is doesn’t always have to be. And what I find is that adults are quick to label youth because of how it makes them feel. They feel better that they can’t actually parent/teach their kids.

We are products of our own environment AND the environment is a product of us. Why do we create so many “disrespectful” students these days (as some put it)? It so easy to blame character. Why don’t we instead build a better system? What is school for? Maybe we don’t need to train students to be a cog in a machine.

We can make things better by making better things.


Pulling tension out of a hat

There’s a reason why magicians don’t reveal their secrets.

The reason is, magic isn’t real unless we believe it is. Telling us how she did the trick takes away from the tension she spent the last hour creating.

Most of us spend our day trying to make this kind of tension go away.

We fight to get to inbox zero, to finish meetings without being noticed or hope we are not picked for a difficult project that might fail.

The professional, on the other hand, learns how to embrace this tension and to create it.

They instigate, ask questions, make assertions, challenge the status-quo…creating a ratchet.

Learning to leverage this tension is the work of a professional. It’s what we do to get your audience on the edge of their seat.

Ten seconds of courage

Not the kind of courage it takes to scale a wall without a rope.

But the kind where you will make one uncomfortable interaction.

Whether it is clicking publish for your blog or phoning a long-lost family member.

Make one interaction each day that scares you, one that might not work.

As you do so, you’ll begin to notice that it is easier to walk through doors that you have been hesitant to open.

Authenticity vs consistency

Notre Dame can be rebuilt. And it can be wonderful if we can simply let go of this idea of authenticity.

Because nothing is authentic anymore. Nothing is original.

Even in Notre Dame, the paintings, the sculptures, the architecture were all borrowed ideas from the style of the time.

So, if we want to rebuild it, we can. We can restore it to be consistent from what it was before.

Because that is what we are really looking for. A feeling that is consistent with the past.

[Don’t be sad that it’s over. Be happy that it happened.]

Expensive tools are nice but not necessary to ship your work

In his interview with Tim Ferriss, Neil Gaiman talks about the type of pen and notebook he uses to write.

The thing is, expensive tools are nice to have but they are not enough to get you to write like Gaiman. It’s not enough to get us in the mood. And it certainly doesn’t give us the courage needed to ship.

Plenty of great books have been written with a BIC pen on yellow legal pads.

You don’t need fancy tools, you just need to care.

Algorithm redlining is a problem that isn’t going away

In 1988, Bill Dedman pointed out in his Pulitzer Prize winning article the devastating effects of redlining.

Redlining is an insurance term that started when companies would literally circle areas on a map that were deemed too risky to insure. Of course, the people most affected were in inner cities or low-income neighborhoods.

While insurance redlining is now illegal, there are still hundreds of examples where it happens every day:

  1. Online Delivery Redlining: Amazon, “The Everything Store” with one-day delivery, is apparently not for everyone.
  2. Supermarket Redlining: In Hartford, Connecticut, 85% of supermarkets left the city between 1968 to 1984 and few supermarkets have opened since.
  3. Geographical Redlining: Retail giants like Home Depot and Staples charge different prices based on where you live.
  4. Predatory Loan Redlining and Liquorlining: In sort of a reverse redlining, areas where banks are not loaning as much money see an increase in predatory loans and liquor stores.
  5. Subprime Loan Redlining: Back in 2000, Wells Fargo targeted churches in black communities and convinced their religious leaders to deliver “wealth building” seminars to their congregation. The bank would then make a donation to the church in exchange for every new mortgage application.

The list goes on with student loans, auto insurance, workforce services…you name it.

Now, as Joi Ito wrote, we are training our computer algorithms to do the same thing. Big Tech can now target and begin redlining because we have surrendered so much of our personal information.

So what happens when your Apple Watch predicts that you are 18% more likely to have a heart attack at age 50? Will you be uninsurable?

Or how about predicting the likelihood whether someone will commit another crime or get in a driving accident or perform well at a job?

The problem isn’t predicting. The problem is how we use the prediction.

Right now, the algorithms are wrong. Most of the time in fact. Yet, we are increasingly relying on them each day to tell us what to do.

The question is, what happens when we begin to rely on these algorithms for everything? What happens when these algorithms actually get good at predicting behavior? Is that algorithm biased in anyway?

Computers are not biased like humans. They don’t think or feel or carry the same prejudice that human beings do. But humans have built computers and computer are a reflection of our flawed system.

Don’t worry about the wrong problem

Most leaders fixate on the wrong problem.

The boss who can’t motivate their employee to show up on time fixates on them setting their alarm earlier.

The parent that wants their child to have better grades takes away their phone and sticks them with a tutor, but fails to ask What is school for? Is it for my child?

It seems so simple. But it’s not.

The answer to complex problems isn’t always suggesting the simplest solution and doesn’t often get to the root of chronic problems.

It’s lazy to think that simply changing behavior we can create desired outcomes.

Chronic problems require more thought and care. They require us to think about the system we have built. Reductionism isn’t the only explanation available.

“Just do it” just doesn’t work

“Shape up and shut up” or “Just do it” only works when you have total authority over someone.

So unless you are a drill sergeant, it doesn’t work that often. Not enough to justify the frequency of use. Because once you push that button, you’ve just spent the last of your capital (trust).

Yet, this is a go to tactic for parents, coaches, bosses, mentors when working with someone who is stuck.

Let’s be clear, most of us that are stuck are not refusing to move to be difficult. No, they don’t know where to go.

This is far from the cry of “they just don’t care.”

Worth exhausting all other tactics and strategies before blowing it up.

A good teacher teaches with us not to us.

What does a real lightsaber sound like?

If you have ever seen Star Wars, most people can think of a sound that a lightsaber makes. They can hear the zap when it turns on, the crashing when they hit each other and the humming when they wave.

Yet, no one has ever held or heard a real lightsaber. No one has ever seen a real one off screen.

We accept imagination as culture.

The question is: If someone invents a lightsaber what would it really sound like?

Probably not like the movie we grew up loving.

Does that make it a real lightsaber then? Is what we have positioned in our mind’s eye the real one?

Worth thinking about while listening to how Ben Burtt created these cultural icon sounds.

You don’t pay your debts in money. You pay it with agency.

Debt significantly limits our ability to make choices.

Because when an emergency comes—and they always do—you are forced to stick with a job longer than you should, work overtime, take a second job, spend time away from your family, put off that book you always wanted to write…

Constantly, we make the cycle worse, by saying things like, “I don’t have time”, “I’m too tired” or “I deserve a vacation” And why not? You have been working so hard doing work you don’t want to do. You need a break. So, we charge it.

Debt is a shackle. Why are we trading so much freedom for a bigger house in a neighborhood we can’t quite afford, a fancier car that is too expensive, TV’s, phones, boats, RV’s…these are artifacts. Status symbols to show off to the Jones’s

It’s worth evaluating, Is this cycle of never-ending accumulation actually never ending?

Is life really about, “I have a car payment so I can get to work. I go to work to pay my car payment.”?

Of course not.

Debt takes away agency.