I have to admit, once the holiday break started, it was hard to get back to work and writing. I know that I must have needed the break and I honestly expected to begin writing my weekly blog a couple of weeks ago; in fact, I had great intentions that I would write several and get ahead of myself over the break. Family, friends, fun activities and even jigsaw puzzles seemed to take over my world… all in a good way. It was extremely timely that this new book, ended up in my mailbox just as vacation was ending. Here is why…
First of all, yes this book is for educators but I am going to go out on a limb and say that, for those of you reading this who are not educators, you would have a very worthwhile read. Robin Noble brings a very important issue to print; the need for educators and all of us to have a sense of ourselves. She describes our “internal culture” and the three innate human needs that we all have- the need to relate to others, to live and work with competence and to feel autonomous with our decisions and in our lives.
As I read the book, I reflected on the many times in my life that these three needs were filled or not filled and how it impacted how I worked or lived. I know that all three come and go on a scale of importance to me; some days I need to know and feel the relatedness to others in my life and other times I need to know that I am doing things that I am good at. When I have had new challenges or changes in my life, I don’t feel as competent right away (or with my golf game, hardly ever) so that lack of competence influences my being. And, for sure, there are so many times that I want and need to have the autonomy to make my decisions, set my goals, be me and live my life.
One of Robin’s opening statements in the book really hit me hard. She talks about the terms that we hear so much in school improvement work- how the schools that need so much help and support are constantly seeing labels such as “needs improvement”, “corrective action”, “low performing”, “restructuring” and “failing”. Robin also brings solid research to her writing and one I appreciated was the reminder that when people lose their ability to define and solve the problems that they face, they also lose the drive, motivation and sense of self-efficacy that keep them moving forward toward their goals (Margolis and Mc Cabe, 2006 and Pink, 2009).
My favorite chapter in the book is Chapter Four titled “Competence”. It speaks to recognizing our own sense of incompetence and how to increase self-efficacy. Robin helps readers find ways to reboot and set goals, and we all know that that seems to be part of our New Year resolutions. As I was working in schools this week, this chapter in particular really helped me see the teachers that I was working with in a different perspective. I observed as they started to really understand what was being asked of them, they were becoming more competent in their work. This has taken a few months and sometimes takes longer than that in our schools, but until we support deep understanding and give teachers and leaders time to practice and figure things out, the competence doesn’t come.
What we often see instead is change after change after change to the point of no one ever feeling safe in making decisions or knowing that they confidently can go forward with their work. We forget to tell them the “why” and really miss the opportunity to help them understand their purpose. And even when we ask teachers to set goals, we forget to notice and celebrate their wins; big or small. As a leader reading this, how can you help teachers gain the competence in their practices? What can you do to ensure that they have the knowledge and time to practice (without distractors or constant change) to build their toolkit with confidence?
Robin also does a great job of helping the reader understand how collaborative work supports our internal needs. Being part of a team, developing interdependence so that we all contribute and that we all need each other’s thinking and expertise is important to meeting our own needs. We know in schools that students benefit from the collective work when teachers put their heads together to meet the needs of the students so I appreciated thinking about how this also helps the adults in the building.
I recently read an article about Iceland’s Prime Minister Katrin Jakobsdottir urging governments to prioritize sustainability and family time over obsessing about economic growth — as most developed nations seem to do. I know that many will argue that without economic stability, wellness is not possible. Robin’s closing comments speaks to what I believe Ms. Jakobsdottir is getting at; “the ball is in your court. Change must start with you.” This is a great time of the year to reset your goals, consider how you can internally develop your own sense of autonomy, relatedness and competence and also how you influence and impact others around you.
Robin’s book is available at https://www.solutiontree.com/finding-fulfillment.html. Happy reading and have an amazing Saturday. I look forward to being with you again next week!