Stop Pretending, or Start?

I have a long post that is still waiting to be finished in response to the #makeschooldifferent challenge. The original challenge came from Scott Mcleod who posted: Five Things we have to stop pretending.
After reading through a compilation of all the posts so far, I found myself in a sort of holding pattern. I agreed with just about all of what I was reading.
And yet…
Stop pretending.
Stop pretending.
That’s a very specific and special kind of language.
It is language which, after reading some 130 plus versions of the same phrasing, makes me wonder.
To stop pretending would mean that we currently are in the habit of pretending, of making believe, of creating imaginary states of mind and that we must break this habit.
Yet when we walk into our classrooms, create elaborate lesson plans, or confer with colleagues on curriculum choices, does that feel like pretending?
When we need to discipline students, deliver unpleasant news to parents, when we speak out against unrealistic policy mandates, are we pretending then?

I don’t believe that we actually are in the habit of pretending at all. Our actions, reasoning and outcomes are very real and decidedly imperfect. We are falling short on several levels and we are not pretending. Rather we are struggling to survive. Struggling to make our classrooms humane and our lessons relevant. We are struggling to to grow up alongside our students in a world neither they nor we adequately understand. We are not pretending.

We are uncomfortable with unlearning. We have visions of what learning to learn could look like, how our schools might be if they lost their walls and time tables and hierarchies. And we are also trapped. Trapped in our known and familiar pathways and straying from those is frightening, hard and stressful. We may face punishment rather than reward. We cannot truly afford to diverge just yet because our kids need to be ready for college, right? No, we are not pretending. What we are doing day after day in our homes, classrooms, schools, and districts is hoping against hope that what we are doing will be enough.

It pains me to write pessimistically. It doesn’t feel like me. And yet it feels like the truth I need to risk speaking.
If I may, I’d like to turn the above thinking on its head and encourage us all to go ahead and pretend.

And really I have just one thing. Let us each pretend that we believe wholeheartedly in our own power to change the world by changing something in ourselves.

Pretend that you have the power to change the world by changing yourself.

Pretend that you believe wholeheartedly in your power to change the world by changing something in yourself.

“Stop pretending” assumes that we’ve been pretending all along. Surprisingly, I disagree. We are hardly in the habit of pretending. We are in the habit of struggling to create certainty, reliability, and predictability – and to reproduce these through systems.

I suggest that we instead begin pretending. One little imaginary state at a time. Pretend that you are the best part of your students’ day. Pretend that you believe that your students know plenty that you don’t and that your curiosity to find out is unlimited. Pretend that you have all the resources you need for full engagement right there in the heads and hearts of the people in the room. In pretending we run the risk of behaving as if the thing were true. In pretending we may well run into our most creative and generous selves. In pretending we may find a gateway to the change we really wish to see.

Pretend like me. I am going to pretend that this post may change someone’s mind. I am going to pretend that writing this right now is the best I can offer.

Perhaps rather than to “stop pretending,” we urgently need to start.

Many thanks to Sue Dunlop (@Dunlop_Sue) who invited me into this conversation.

7 thoughts on “Stop Pretending, or Start?

  1. I can only echo Scott’s comment. Every time I read one of your posts, I am humbled by your ability to think differently and, in turn, make me think differently. I am so glad I discovered your blog.

    Maybe your pretending is a form of faith. Faith in ourselves that we can make a difference and that we are doing something really valuable.

    1. I agree, Sue. Faith fits for me as well. We need something for sure and while being realistic has its place, sometimes we need to stretch beyond what we think is possible, doable or even wise and risk being and doing miracles. (Did I really just say miracles? Yes, I did.)

  2. I am so upset that I did not see this earlier. Can you please send me your pieces each time you publish? I don’t want to miss one. I love how you are “real” and recognize the struggle, but you also acknowledge that we can have a positive impact and we do. Once again a wonderful piece. Thank you for sharing and reflecting so honestly.

    1. Wow, Jon, that’s so kind of you to say. As educators I think we spend a lot of time commuting between the world of ‘reality’ and that of miracles (there, I said it again.). Young kids spend much more time in the miracles & wonder section and we adults tend to be mired in ‘reality’ and would need a host of interpreters to comprehend those little people from the other world. But we can practice. Our kids & students don’t let us get away with not practicing. And when we tune in we get better and better at sampling that other world and how it works. We educators are often ‘both, and’ people although we act more often like ‘either-or’ and ‘yes, but’ creatures.

  3. I’ll echo everyone’s thoughts here: wow, indeed! I love your different take on this contest. I wish that I saw this post earlier, but I’m so glad that I saw Sue’s tweet about it. I’ll need to check out your other posts now too. Thanks for getting me thinking this morning!


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