Discomfort - The Source of Why - Steve Barkley

Discomfort – The Source of Why

A recent article by Lois Brown Easton, The Why, How, and What of Professional  Learning(Tools for Learning Schools, Spring 2012, learningforward) introduced  me to the work of Simon Sinek.  Sinek, the author of Start With Why, identifies that the common communication  process  flowing from what to howto why should be reversed. He suggest that the inspired leaders present a message beginning with why, then how and finally what.
“People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.” 

“Martin Luther King’s speech was ‘I have a dream’ not ‘I have a plan’.” 

 Sinek defines a biology of human decision making. He describes that our actions are driven by the brain’s limbic system. There are emotions behind our actions. Understanding the why means knowing the source of those emotions. 

In my work with coaching, I have always encouraged coaches to identify teachers’ beliefs and values as part of building a plan for change and growth. 

“Probably the most important aspect of a coaching program resides in the opportunity it provides to rekindle the vision of educators— to empower them to, once again, teach with their vision, allowing their mission, their beliefs, and their values to drive every decision.” Quality Teaching In a Culture of Coaching
As teachers examine student work, data, or a coach’s observations, they often find an area of discomfort….an outcome that doesn’t measure up to the vision driving the teacher’s work.  That discomfort then becomes the source of motivation…the why…for the teacher’s learning or change. 

Easton suggests that effective PLC’s should follow the same why, how, what process:

-First identify why we might engage in the challenging proposition of changing how. (A small number of our students score advanced on the math standardized assessment.)-Next , how would we bring about a change. (This is where study and learning occur in the PLC. What would students need to experience and do in order to reach a higher standard?)

-Now the PLC is ready to identify changes in what they do to achieve what they want (the why).

I have frequently suggested that the reason to study data is to find discomfort. That discomfort now drives the work of growth and change. 

School leaders sharing the “why” …. the beliefs and commitments… may find more teachers willingly joining in the hard  work of the what.  Hopefully, with teachers experiencing involvement examining the why,we will find fewer stating, “Just tell me whatto do.” 

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