I took a number of take-a-ways from this weeks reading. I really resonated with Rosamund and Benjamin Zander’s discussion about childlike behaviorisms following people into adulthood. All to often you encounter people who exhibit questionable behavior due to insecurities. They posture and put up fronts of power, many times becoming extremely stubborn unwilling to relent that they have made a mistake or are wrong, simply because they fear that this admonition will diminish them from the perspective of others. Good leaders must learn humility, be willing to learn, and extend their trust to those that they depend on. This behavior tends to make hypocrites of people as well.
They will persist in a way of thinking even after changing circumstances force them to take actions that are completely contrary to their supposed beliefs.It reminds me of the term “flip-flopper” used so often as an insult in politics. I hate this term because a person, especially a policy maker, should be able change their mind as new information presents itself. This does not necessarily make someone untrustworthy or indecisive, it makes a person lucid.
The authors’ comment of leading from any chair tie right into the work my school has been doing to shift the focus of our classrooms from teacher-centered to student-centered. It is an amazing thing to witness a group of students learning from not just one teacher, but the 15-20 other teachers that are in the class with them. There is almost a palpable change of energy in the room when it takes place. You can sense a feeling of empowerment and mutual respect from all.
Unfortunately it does not always work for everyone. Benjamin Zander describes empowering all of his musicians by viewing them as “glorious lovers of music.” However this is an obvious truth. Why else would they have pursued this career? I have to say that high school students do not always have even a slight amount of passion as many times they feel forced to participate either by law or the pressures of parents or requirements to graduate. They did not make the choice to be in a particular class and as a result simply do not have an interest. For these students the first battle is helping them to make some sort of personal connection to the subject matter and igniting even a small spark of passion.
I absolutely love the Rule Number 6. If the super egos of the world could get out of the way I truly believe there would be greater understanding amongst all. Plain and simple.
The authors’ concepts of being present to the way things are shares many similarities to the philosophy of yoga. Yoga teaches you to be present in the moment. When things become difficult you it is important to focus on your breath and breath through it. As long as you are aware of your struggle, you are in control of your struggle, which enables you to persist through it. Once you make it through you will find yourself stronger and more flexible, ready to take on even greater challenges.
I also believe one of the keys to achieving this type of growth is, as the authors stated, eliminating denial, blame, or other escapes from your thinking. This could very well be favorite behavior of a typical high school student. If something goes wrong it is always someone else’s fault. It’s the classic, “the dog ate my homework.” Even students that have obviously misbehaved immediately try to shift blame by questioning other’s behavior rather than reflecting on their own. This may be one of the most frustrating aspects of working with high school students for me. They look like adults; they want to be treated like adults, yet most are still very much under the influence of the childlike behaviors of the calculating self.
As for chapter eight I have always giving way to passion. When I have committed to something I have always been fully committed. That said, this idea has been shed in a new light since I have become a teacher. My goal for every day is for every student I teach to exist in a state of passion while they are in my classroom. Alas, this is not the reality. However, this perspective has been one of the driving forces throughout the last year during my own educational journey. Many of my friends gave me hard time about the amount of work I put into this program. They would question whether I always had to do “A” work or if I couldn’t just do enough to get by. But that has never been a question for me. I am all in.
I so agree with your perspective (and Zander’s) on the persistence of childlike ego-defensive behaviors. Funny how amazingly counterproductive it is to puff up and deny, which only extends conflict and grows anxiety. So often a little “my bad” can reset the whole reaction and allow us to move forward, and yet folks fight it with passion.
A lot of it is habitual I think. I recall when I was about 8, lying in my bed feeling all wronged after having been sent to my room for something I did not think I was responsible for. My mom felt badly and came to try and talk me into coming out, but I ignored her and continued to pout. Suddenly as I heard her click her tongue and walk away, I was awestruck by the crazy self-destructiveness of my behavior.
I realized that laying there, in misery, feeling sorry for myself was hurting mostly me. I was forfeiting my own joy to somehow manipulate her. I suspect we had learned this dance because my pouting had, as it naturally must in the context of motherly love, hurt her and made her want to give in to me in many similar interactions we must have had throughout my life. Our natural inclinations, me with my childish drive for power and her mother’s drive to protect her offspring, had led us to teach each other this destructive pattern.
I got up and went out and gave her a hug and apologized for being such a little snot. Ever since, I vowed to always squelch that little angry baby crying “I’ll show them”, take a few breaths and find a new perspective. But, I still feel these messed up little scripts well up in me now and then, where I want to lay blame, get pay-back, or surrender to self-hatred, and try very hard to be aware and check myself. Like you I wish I could teach this to my students, and wish my kids were better at it.