I wrote about paradoxes in coaching a few weeks ago and now we’re living an extreme one. As we get ready to go home after close to six weeks in the hospital, I put all my energy into believing that my son will regain feeling and function again. I also prepare for the possibility that he may not. It’s the oxymoron of optimistic realists. So I encourage him in his visualization exercises to experience what it will feel like to move a toe again or lift a knee and with the help of our amazing community we’ve remodeled the house to make it wheelchair accessible. We simultaneously believe he’ll recover sensation entirely and we prepare his environment for what is. And what is is not a negative reality, it’s just our current challenge.
Quality educators I work with do this too. They sit alongside a child, listen to them read and discuss the text. Noticing all the things the child is doing well, they find one thing to nudge them forward. They believe the child will become a stronger reader and will grow an academic year or more. Or they sit by a writer who can barely crank out a few words and say, “Look at how much you already know how to do, now I’m going to teach you…” They believe the children will grow and they prepare for them right where they are at. There’s a sense of patient urgency in you wonderful people.
It’s not a simple paradox to live though. It requires courage. People will tempt us with quick fixes. We’ve already been offered nutritional milkshakes to help our son regenerate nerves–the first one is free. While that may work for some, we’ll stay the path with our team’s approach. In teaching we’ll be offered computer programs that will engage and boost our students’ learning. And while that can work for specific interventions, we know what a child needs most is time and attention with the best teacher possible.
Underneath quality improvement plans (not the compliant ones) we write for individual students, schools and districts, I see this “believe and prepare” paradox present. When we believe, we have far-reaching vision for what can be. When we prepare, we ground ourselves with what is. The space between “what is” and “what can be” is the work.
Enjoy your winter breaks. Home for the holidays has never meant quite so much for our family.