About The Thrivapy Blog

I created The Thrivapy Blog to share my thoughts and ideas about living a learning lifestyle.

For more, visit my website: www.thrivapy.com
Thank You,
Dr. Troy P. Roddy

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Shame, Guilt, and Embracing Change in Schools

At the center of school should be learning.

When we learn, we change. The difference may not be very noticeable, but we cannot be the same after having learned.

However, the thought of change brings out a type of primal fear in people. In The War of Art, Steven Pressfield call this fear "Resistance." Seth Godin refers to it as the "lizard brain" in his book, Linchpin.

This fear causes some teachers to delay action, to fight against the change, and/or retreat to the (illusion of) comfort of their classrooms to try to thrive in the status quo.

None the less, in schools, learning must take place and, thus, so must change. As a school administrator and educator, I am called upon, occasionally, to help students, parents, and teachers with the manifestations of their fears of change. 

For students exposed to a new concept, the unknown is difficult. This an be especially troubling for students with historically good grades who have a more fixed mindset. New concepts could signal a challenge to their good grades and, by nature of fixed mindsets, a challenge to their self image and worth.

Parents live busy and demanding lives. I very much in touch with that emotion! Handing our children to school is a joyful phase. Parents want their kids to learn, to make friends, to grow, and to be happy. Unfortunately, learning can be messy. It involves both the joys of victory and the agony of defeat. Parents also, at some level, have fears of not only their futures, but now their children's futures. Add into the mix the misplaced fear of being judged as a "bad parent" and you get a very powerful "Resistance making machine."

Recently, I had the pleasure of reading a remarkable book by Brene Brown titled, Daring Greatly. I was slightly familiar with Brene's work due to her very popular TED talk about shame and vulnerability. However, I had not read any of her books or considered how her research could impact my work. After reading, I have this thought about how to add another layer to helping support people deal with change.

"Address the behavior, not the person."

This is one of the more important messages I took from Daring Greatly.  Brene spends a good deal of time elaining the difference between blaming the person (shame) and blaming the decision acted upon (guilt).  She is quick to point out that she is not addressing evil or illegal behavior, but rather things that are connected to our daily lives and authentic selves (my description).

For example, a school administrator who is leading an effort to incorporate more progressive teaching is finding it particularly frustrating that one of the teachers refuses to event try to incorporate the new ideas into her very traditional lessons. While the initial reaction may be to judge the teacher (She is a bad teacher because she refuses to grow professionally), Daring Greatly suggests focusing on the behavior is more appropriate, "Deciding not to participate in the growth opportunity is a mistake."

When working with people to help them learn, especially something new and unfamiliar, expect mistakes, anxiety, and even a little pushback. Those are natural reactions. It is the "Resistance" shouting. It is the "lizard brain" working overtime. Try to focus on the behavior. Avoid shaming the person.