The Resistance Before the Breakthrough – The Teacher’s Edition

What a difference a week of phone calls can make.

I’ve seen the light.
I’ve come around.
I’ve changed my mind.

And it actually feels good.

First, let me be a sport and give a hat tip to those who done told me so from the start. Gary Chou, the mind behind Orbital, had encouraged me to organize a live gathering of the students in the beta version of the self-study ecourse based on my novel Picture Me Rollin’. The co-facilitators and advisors he brought to boot camp to support us in implementing our projects agreed.

Each and every time, I listened, smiled, nodded and said, “Yeah, but…”

I thought I had good reasons for my resistance to a live component to my ecourse. I mean, it’s an e-course, right? Among the other reasons, I had – all of which I still think are logical – it seemed that extending myself at that level defeated the purpose of using the digital tools available to gather people online.

But logic has its limits, and in those limits are emotional sinkholes. This became evident to me after holding the first round of office hours this week. Having candid conversations with my students revealed how much of my resistance was rooted I concerns that were not logical at all. After reflecting on these conversations, I can now see and admit that my resistance to organizing a gathering of my students was based on an attitude a lot like this.

I’ve known for a long time that the best teachers are willing to learn from their students even if sometimes it’s difficult. Often when it’s difficult because a flaw in your knowledge or pedagogy has been exposed or the power differential has been shifted out of your favor. Essentially, the growing pains comes from having your ego checked.

My students not only reaffirmed what I already knew to be true about the value of a live gathering, they also deconstructed my deepest concerns with clarity, humor and another kind of emotional logic. By the end of the last telephone call, I was actually looking forward to organizing something. Once my resistance crumbled, the floodgates to more creativity – both with respect to this endeavor and a few others on the back burner yet in the same vein – crashed open.

I genuinely believe that the greatest resistance comes right before the breakthrough. I’ve blogged about it before with respect to challenging students, and I often have comforted fellow teachers with this principle when they have lamented about students who dug their heels in when being faced with information that threatens to shatter a way of thinking upon which much of their worldview and sense of self has been built. I totally underestimated that this applies to teachers as well.

TWo office hours, and now I know better.