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The Magic What If

Hope Dugan, December 2018

I spend a lot of time with educators and something I seem to be hearing a lot more of are reasons why we cannot do something. “We simply cannot change our master schedule! We could not possibly allow a student to select their own learning path! There is simply no way our school could handle a digital learning environment.” And so on.

Unfortunately, when well-intentioned leadership decides that a school ‘cannot possibly…’ it frequently means that the school will not have the option. These fear-based responses to a fast-changing world are completely understandable, but as understandable as they are, they are still a barrier to greater success.

Richard Bach, in his groundbreaking book: Illusions: The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah stated, “Argue for your limitations, and sure enough, they’re yours.” Stated simply: If you are constantly saying what you cannot do, you will create a self-fulfilling prophecy that prevents your students and your teachers from reaching new heights.

One way to reframe these thoughts is to utilize the Magic What If. When faced with a difficult decision, ask yourself, “What if?” What if I could affect change? Ask your reluctant administrator, “What if we tried a few classes in a digital learning environment? What if students succeeded? What if it could help reach all our kids? What if we could increase teacher satisfaction and retention?

Instead of arguing for your limitations: “With the budget cuts, we have no option to explore digital learning!” Try using the Magic What If to open the dialogue “What if we tried a few classes using some of the basics? What if we already have some teachers doing this work? What if these teachers could help design and lead the work? What could we achieve together? The Magic What If allows your mind to focus on potential solutions and not stagnate in the barriers to success. The Magic What If allows us to move the conversation forward.

Many schools and districts openly embrace digital learning; some do not. When you believe passionately that digital learning opens the world to a student and solves issues for your district but are constantly met with all the reasons why it can’t work, you can begin to feel like giving up-that it is just easier to go with the flow. When you feel like you are trying to turn the Titanic, remember these 4 things:

  1. If you argue for your limitations, they are yours.

  2. Approach problems as temporary situations and explore ideas with the Magic What If to reframe the conversation.

  3. If there is not a sound educational reason to say no-then consider saying yes.

  4. Keep in mind the desired outcome: that the child learns.

Words are powerful. What if you embraced NOT arguing for your limitations? What if you could begin to affect positive change in your community? What if you could be the difference?

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