Choosing to be Bothered

My first answer didn’t quite get at the heart of Mark’s question, but it was the best I could do in 140 characters:

A true answer is much longer than Twitter allows. I’m bothered by lots of things, but the underlying essence is this: As a society, and a planet, we need human capital. Solving the problems and capitalizing on the opportunities that are presented to us at this point in human history requires every mind engaged and moving us forward. Every student that we don’t reach or push forward, or who doesn’t learn collaboration skills, or ends up satisfied with sloppy thinking or repetitive work, is one who will not help us in our global ambitions as a society. Put simply, I want every person to be engaged in something that they’re passionate about, and to use it to push us further as a society, and we’re a long way from that goal. This bothers me, but I can’t put that problem on my to-do list. What I can do, though, is adjust my botherings for my zoom level at any given time. Consider this from Getting Things Done:

  • 50,000 Feet: Life goals and ambitions
  • 40,000 Feet: Three- to five-year visions
  • 30,000 Feet: One- to two-year goals
  • 20,000 Feet: Areas of responsibility
  • 10,000 Feet: Current projects
  • Runway: Current actions

The idea is that everything should have a certain level of vertical alignment (e.g. current actions support projects, which support areas of responsibility, helping you achieve one- to two-year goals, etc.). While I like the simplicity and intentionality of the model, GTD frames the top of the model as very self-/inward-focused. The bottom rungs are obviously self-focused, since they’re the concrete steps you take towards your goals, but I’m not interested in top levels which are only about myself:

  • 50K: Who do you want to be? What do you want?
  • 40K: What are your roles in daily life?

I’d much rather have driving big-picture foci which are “botherings,” or questions, puzzles, or challenges.

To answer Mark’s question, here are some of my GTD botherings–the things which drive my moonshot thinking:

  • 50,000 Feet:
    • How do we support and develop key values of empowerment, confidence, responsibility, curiosity and zeal?
  • 40,000 Feet:
    • How do we provide opportunities for students to create and make things of value?
    • How do we promote social responsibility and engagement?
    • How do we empower artistic thinking?
    • How do we celebrate success?
  • 30,000 Feet:
    • How do we create spaces in which students have the opportunity to experiment and explore creatively (maker spaces, personal technology, arts creation)?
    • How do we highlight great digital work or products in a school community to celebrate success?
    • How do we design learning experiences which are inquiry- and interest-driven, rigorous, and relevant?
    • How do we provide opportunities for personal expression?
    • How do I model and personally value social responsibility and engagement?
  • 20,000 Feet:
  • 10,000 Feet:
    • My project list
    • My unit design and assessments
  • Runway
    • My daily agenda
    • My student work and feedback
    • My lesson plans

As you can see, there’s a break for me between the top levels of philosophy, vision and guiding principles, and the lower levels of translating those into action. Now if it were always that clean, I’d be a productivity superninja and have already saved the world. Mark’s right, though– you have to be bothered by something. It’s having a bother, or a challenge, or a really gnarly question, that makes us continue to revise and tweak the lesson plans, to realize something’s not done and can be further worked, or to continue to sharpen the saw. I think that the extent to which you can align your day to those philosophical issues goes along way towards your level of success, satisfaction and validation in your teaching.

 Your Turn

What are your botherings? How do they influence your daily aspirations or your classroom?

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