I’ve been reading The Practice, Seth Godin’s new book. As I work through different ideas and how much really connects to education and what we do in school, I look at what I am doing in my own online classroom and how our practices might change in different ways to allow students a greater opportunity to begin their own ‘practice’. It really has me thinking about how I’m approaching the work we are doing each day.
In The Practice, Seth Godin explains that the process of the ‘practice’, showing up each day and doing whatever it is you wish to share with others and contribute to the world that is what is important. You are doing it because it fulfills that need you have to share with others. You do it, not because you think you are going to make money doing it but because you want to put it out in the world. The world needs what you are making. This thinking turns our past experience on its head because we have believed for so long that only a few special chosen get to do this while the rest toil away. Godin, using a variety of different examples, shows how the process of going to work and working as a widget will no longer meet the needs of a population that does not want to like everyone else. A growing multitude, check out TikTok or Instagram if you think this isn’t true, no longer wish to just consume and be told what to do. They want to have a voice, to mix things up, to speak out about how injustice and the need for change.
One part that has me thinking about what we do in education and how we look at what we are doing is the matrix that Seth has in the book. This matrix (p. 105) explores the difference between a professional, amateur, hack, and failure. I found this very intriguing. Mostly because of how it explores the idea of being a hack. A professional is someone who is working toward “persistently serving your audience” with the work that you do. As an amateur your work is for you and you alone. “The amateur serves only herself. If there are bystanders, that’s fine, but as an amateur your work is only for you. A privilege, a chance to find joy in creation”(p. 106). A failure is someone who doesn’t put time or effort into the practice but has a “quest for lucky break”. They see the path is one of luck. Finally, the hack. “Today, the hack isn’t something you want to be. A hack reverse-engineers all the work, barely getting by. The hack has no point of view, no assertations to be made. It’s simply “What do you need?” and “how little do I have to charge to get this gig?” (or how much can I get away with?”).”
As I was reflecting on this whole idea, I began to think about how we might use this to help our students to begin developing their own practice. I mean, there are definitely skills that students need to develop over time but if we are trying to really support students, how do we help them to begin to develop the foundation for ‘practice’?
As I look around the educational landscape, I wonder how much of what I see is really people “hacking” – reverse-engineering things to provide simply what is being asked for. How do we step back from the barrage of information and things coming at us each day, especially at this time when online learning and technology seems to change every day? Do each of us, as educators, have a ‘practice’ we do each day, shipping it out into the world for others? How can we support students as they move forward in a world that is less and less looking for the widgets and more and more looking for people who will share their practice?
Practice through Reflection
In my last piece, I discussed how important last Thursday and Friday were for both my students and myself. The whole idea of a ‘Retreat’ – to spend time in reflection. “Students need time to step back and pause”. As I have been thinking about what Godin says in The Practice, I wonder how we can shift how we look at what students are doing and instead of “how busy are they” we might begin to ask “what are they practicing?” It’s like shifting the question from “What do you want to be when you grow up?” to “What problem do you want to solve?”. It doesn’t even need to be “when you grow up”. Can’t we solve problems now? Or is that just for those who are lucky? What if the lens we look through isn’t one of “luck” but one of “practice”?
Just some of the things I’m thinking about as this week starts.
Remember, wherever you are, Every Day is a PD Day!