Thinking Aloud

There are some great minds out there in different circles. Leaders and teachers doing creative things to explore and examine Who we are and Who we want to become. You just have to look at the steady stream of books being published about the importance of people, relationships, community and culture development in schools, and for life in general.

It’s all great stuff!

For inquiring minds, it creates time and space for contemplation and introspection. However, this is only where the seed is planted. The real growth happens when the germination of ideas breaks through the soil to reveal one’s conscious effort and energy to put words into action. Not only to learn more about Who we are, but to understand why we are the way we are.

It all starts with the notion of ‘Working From Within.’ We need to work on ourselves before we expect our culture or community to change. The climate of our culture, environment and community is a direct reflection of who we are as individuals.

Challenge: Over the course of a week, when chatting with people about a concern or issue do an audit on whether the person you’re talking to is doing one of two things:

  1. Looking at external factors or forces to explain or make sense of how things could be better; or,
  2. Looking within to explain or make sense of how things could have been handled differently.

There are many ways you can view the above circles depending on the situation and context.

How can we increase the circle of “What I say to other people,” in the way of honest feedback or challenging negativity without placing pressure or straining the relationship?

While all these books tell us to have radical candor, give feedback, be open and honest…. it’s all great stuff, it really is. In theory. In practice, when feedback is given or there is challenge, the reality is, that after such an interaction, things shift. In the end, we are human.

How can we truly express the things we want to say or more importantly need to be said with grace and honesty, in a way where others understand and the relationship deepens?

We all know of people who are forward and have a steady stream of consciousnesses. We all know of people, who live in their heads and keep it locked there. And then there is everything in-between.

Right now, it feels like (it is like) we are always skimming the surface. We talk a big game, yet we’re constantly traversing and balancing our weight on a tight rope filtering through these circles.

Is it just in schools that it is like this? A lot of us have never left school in the way of a being a student and then coming back as a work place. I wonder what it is like in the police force, hospitals, business firms, law office, construction site……….

It’s not what we say to people, it’s how we say it. Easy to say, more difficult to do.

Developing a culture starts with you. Parts to the whole. What is one thing you’re going to do to be true to your inner thoughts?



  1. Sonya terBorg

    I couldn’t agree more – and I am not just saying that to play nicely đŸ™‚ I think/know that one of the reasons I haven’t blogged so much lately, is because my wonderings and road blocks are leaning to the potentially controversial and could be perceived as negativity when in fact they are an introspective way of getting my thinking out and bouncing the ideas around. I know I am not the smartest person in the room, I know I want feedback and more importantly, to engage in honest debate. I wonder why/when we got so insular in our thinking or protective of ideas that to offer a differing opinion means that you are negative rather than an inquirer, a thinker. Is it in the delivery? One thing that helps me moving forward is to follow the Marina Gijzen mantra “Always assume positive intentions”. I love the deep questions. I love the confusion and grappling. I am not sure if this is where you were going with this post but this is what I heard when I read it!

    • Chad Walsh

      Hi Sonya! Thank you for sharing and to play nice…..
      Yes, we hear those words all the time – “Always assume positive intentions.” Are our words and actions in complete agreement? Rarely, sometimes, often or always……
      It is like when you hear the words, “It’s all about the kids.” Yes, we know that. It is the very reason we do what we do, so why do we say this? Are we reminding ourselves as to why we do this? Are we trying to get others to focus their attention on what matters, as they drift? Sometimes I feel like statements like these are universal and embedded in all that we try to work towards every day. Maybe you’re right, it is the confusion and grappling we need to embrace. The very idea that we have awareness could be enough. The delivery, is a strong force in this – very true. I wonder if as teachers, we are so use to being the person who ‘knows’ (or thinks they know everything that when feedback is given, it is seen as an attack or an assault on our craft. What’s the result there, no movement, no growth. More questions than answers right now Sonya. Thanks again, for weighing in.

      • Sonya terBorg

        Maybe it’s that feedback piece. Are we setting ourselves up for feedback at the right time – when we are ready to hear it and potentially act on it? Are we willing to offer it with kindness (instead of frustration)? We had a good example recently of being very open and transparent about a school PD issue and when feedback was sought, it was constructive and detailed – instead of brushing over what went wrong, that was laid out and formed the groundwork for a constructive conversation that I believe will have an incredibly positive impact moving forward. I spend time thinking about how best to express myself so that my message is heard. Another layer to this that I am also grappling with is how powerful your voice is depending on who you are: are you male or female, an overseas hire or local hire, native English speaker or host country English language learner…do we allow all voices to be heard in whatever way they can express themselves? I have a lot to process…..

        • sherrattsam

          There needs to be a culture of feedback in which everybody knows that growth is the desired result, not back-stabbing, point-proving or self-advancement. It takes a while to develop this kind of culture, and school leaders need to seek ways to gather feedback, opinions, ideas, perspectives etc… as often as possible and in many ways as possible and then call it “data”. Everything is data. Reaching the point where everyone sees everything as data is a kind of Nirvana as only then can you truly be inquiring, yourselves, into how schools work, and how they can evolve.

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