Removing Rational Thinking

Logic will never change emotion or perception.​
Edward De Bono

We live in a complex world with complex problems. Our educational system is no different. As more mandates and accountability models are forced onto schools we are subject to an environment that is ever-changing. Many times we try to attack these problems with very logical responses. We use data, we analyze work, and we evaluate teachers. But, rarely do these changes bring about the sustainable change we need. Why? It is makes sense to use numbers, to measure effectiveness, and to present logical, rational solutions to the problems at hand. So, why have these methods not brought about the educational reform for which our country is clamoring?

Here is the reason…people are emotional creatures first, and rational beings second. We operate under emotional, not rational rules. Yet, we consistently try to attack problems with rational, logical, and ultimately very convoluted solutions. Albert Einstein has been quoted as saying, “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.” We repeatedly try to apply logical solutions: more testing, stiffer accountability models, more scoring of teachers and students. It makes sense, more accountability should get better results- when there is pressure to perform and goals to obtain. But, the perceptions of our schools continues to decline and students are not performing any better than they were before the enforcement of all the mandates.

Bringing about the change we need to meet the challenges of educating students in today’s world cannot be facilitated by logic alone. We cannot simply reason our way through change, no matter how easy it is to believe that there is a quick-fix to raising achievement. Changes bring about fear, fear is driven by emotion and, therefore, we must meet any challenges from the emotional side first and the logical side second. People need to know that their efforts are valued and that they are cared about first and foremost. Leadership is relational first, and positional second.

What is approaching 80 years in the past, Maslow shared a hierarchy of needs that are required for human beings to thrive. According to Maslow, beyond physiological needs, humans need safety, love and belonging, and esteem before self-actualization or the desire to be their best can occur. When there is a deficit lower in the hierarchy, those needs must be met before we can move. For example, people must feel safe in an environment before we can fully adjust our focus to love and belonging. Then love and belonging must be met before we can move our efforts to esteem and self-actualization.

No change, no improvement, no success can be achieved if the people we lead in our schools are not thriving. To help people thrive, we must meet their emotional needs as a leader. Those we serve must feel they are safe to make decisions for their students and take risks; they must feel they are loved and are a valued member of our school; they must have the respect of their leaders for their efforts. All of this must occur before there will be a true desire to be the best they can be. You can only push people as far as the level of trust you have built with them. Logical solutions or tighter accountability will never bring about this self-actualization, in fact it may hinder progress if those involved feel they are fighting a losing battle.

Recently, Tim and Brian Kight from Focus3 shared a very similar, and extremely important concept about Maslow’s timeless truth. As we are leading in any organization, they remind us that organizations are not rational environments, they are emotional environments. As much as we want our schools or operate under rational rules, they do not. There are simply too many people, and too many emotions involved in our schools; and people, myself included, are crazy. We need emotional support before we need logical reasons to improve. People’s emotions are always the first barrier in getting rational, logical, responses to figuring out solutions that bring about change. We operate in emotional environments and, therefore, we must find ways to address and support people’s emotional needs before we try to provide a logical solution to the problem at hand.

The title of this post may be a little extreme, but I wanted to make a point. While we cannot remove all rational thinking (there is still a need to create logical systems we can use to meet students academic needs), it cannot be where we start. As we lead with L.E.S.S., the emotional needs of the people we serve must always be in forefront of the logical processes we want to implement to support our students. There are researched based strategies that will help, but please never think those strategies will fix the real problems we face in educating students. Please never put the academic needs of a student (or staff member) above their social and emotional needs. If we want our classrooms to operate out of love above all else, then our leadership model must also be rooted there. Love first, all else comes second.

Until next time…keep learning; keep growing; keep sharing!

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