It isn’t too often that I find something that stops me in my tracks, leaves me speechless and forces me to slow down. But what I am about to share with you did just that. It was just what I needed to hear at the very moment I needed to hear it and I am forever grateful to Corinne for sharing it with my Coaching Through COVID community. It not only inspired my personal and professional life, but it prompted me to create an entirely new section of my coaching sketchnote book (which is why my notebook is actually a binder so I can do so easily!).

Every single one of us is on a journey in education. And our journeys are often filled with twists and turns, roadblocks and construction zones. And since we are teaching and coaching in the midst of a global pandemic right now, our journeys can feel far out of our control. It can be easy to become frustrated. It can be easy to become overwhelmed. And it can be easy to live with despair given the limitations we are facing and the sheer amount of things that are beyond our control. And it can be even easier to stay in that space than to try and crawl out of it.

But we can. Not by bubbling with positivity or fighting the world at every turn. But by embracing the reality of right now and leaning into it, even learning to appreciate and learn from it.

Before you continue reading, you MUST view this incredible TED Talk from Phil Hansen called ‘Embrace the Shake’. An artist, Phil developed a painful tremor in his hand that completely stripped him of the pointillist art he loved. But rather than give up his passion, he took his doctor’s advice and embraced his new limitation instead….and created art that was far more powerful and beautiful than he could ever imagine.

I think we have a lot to learn from Phil, lessons that can immediately support our work in solving instructional challenges with teachers. I love a good analogy or prompt to get a problem-solving discussion started and ‘Embrace the Shake’ seems like the perfect way to begin. Here’s how I’m envisioning it:

  • First, get real. Ask teachers to name all the limitations they face in their classrooms right now and chart them, if you’d like. Lack of materials and resources? Poor scheduling? Challenging technology? Pandemic problems? Validate each and every one. Feel the frustration and the fear.
  • Next, play the Ted Talk. Give teachers time to soak in the message and sit with their thoughts for a minute. How did it impact them? What might they take away from it?
  • Now, it’s time to talk. Don’t shy away from the limitations we face, but be open to the possibility that the very limitation that frustrates us might lead us to a better solution, an opportunity to embrace our current reality and pivot accordingly. You might launch a broad conversation about our limitations or choose one to tackle head on instead.
  • Finally, choose one little thing. End the conversation with a small, but concrete action to take that would lead the learning forward by embracing the limitation rather than spending all of our energy fighting it.

Now, this TED Talk might be incredibly powerful, but it will not magically take away the limitations and challenges we are all facing right now. But, it might just be the spark we need to change the way we look at those limitations so that we can become better not just in spite of them, but because of them.

So, what limitation might you embrace today and imagine new possibilities that make teaching and learning better because of it?

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