Saturday, November 12, 2016

Problem Solving or Problem Finding?

A big part of "teaching like an artist" is being aware of our part in the environment we are making in our school. We do not create it alone, that's for sure, but we help shape it.

So sometimes my posts here turn into questions that I think could be useful for conversations between administrators or staff meetings. In this one I'll consider how we talk about problems in our schools.

If I could generalize to make a point, I see two distinct groups among the teachers I work with. Both can seem a little obsessed with problems, possibly to the point of being negative.

If you heard either group talking in the teachers lounge, you might not notice much difference. Their motivation is very different, though, and so is the end of their discussions.

One group wants to solve the problems. The other is happy to find the problem, as long as it has nothing to do with them.

No one wants to admit they're in the second group, but I think my co-workers would agree with me when I say I fall squarely in the first group. I want to identify the problem, get my brain around it and see what I can do to solve it. I'm sure I get caught up in "venting" or complaining sometimes, but my final goal is always to identify steps that will move us in the right direction.

So I talk about the problem...a lot. But what I started to notice recently is some people are content to stop the conversation before I am. It's as if they are convinced they found the real problem and (lucky for them) it was beyond their control. They aren't responsible and they can only do so much, right?

So of course we'll always have problems as we work in a setting involving so many people. We need to face the problems, identify them and discuss them. Sometimes we even need to vent our feelings about them.

But in all such conversations, we have to keep this question in mind:

Am I dwelling on this problem so I can find a way to make a positive difference? 

If not, what difference am I making?

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