Today, PrattleNog features a guest post from Lorrie Ranck. Lorrie and I have been colleagues and friends since 1996, when we both started teaching at a college in the Bay Area that provided each of us several “bumps” in our professional road. Those bumps were likely responsible, in part, for the formation of our close and enduring friendship, so although some of them were pretty jarring, I am grateful that they occurred.
Today, Lorrie writes about other kinds of bumps. Enjoy!
Recently, at a job interview, I was asked a question about how I, as a senior member of the leadership team, would handle the challenges of the recent restructure of the academic division. Or, put more informally by a faculty member on the committee, “you know, the bumps in the road.” While I had anticipated this question, the “bumps in the road” comment triggered a recent experience and a way to illustrate my approach.
One of the things I really enjoy is bicycling with my son: when he was younger and smaller, he has a nifty seat right up front and we could easily talk with one another during the ride. The thing is, every bicycle outing is an adventure: new roads, different smells, all kinds of vehicles and people to observe. The world is a dynamic and ever-changing place and he seems to soak it all in. Inevitably, we hit a few bumps along the way. Most times, unless it is significant, I hardly notice since I am looking out for traffic. What I love, though, is his reaction: he giggles, says “bump!” and sometimes, depending on the size, his eyes widen and he shouts, “yahoo!” Then we laugh together or talk about the different kinds of things that make for bumps: small rocks, potholes, speed bumps, etc.
To translate this into more practical use for educational leadership, I focused on three areas:
- Be attentive. The bumps may not be something you experience directly, they do, though, matter to the individual who brings it forward.
- Our response to these “bumps” says a lot about how we interact with the world; it reflects everything from our years of life experience to our disposition to our emotional and physical state at that particular moment and more. I would bet that the older and wiser we become the more critical we are of bumps, challenges and obstacles. We do not like them. In fact, we often do all we can avoid them. Are you the type of person who drives to the side of the speed bump? Perhaps, you are the one who slows down and takes it straight on. Maybe you are one of those folks who don’t even see the bump and just flattened your tire which presents a whole other set of challenges. Just about any way you look at it, over time, we become skeptics and reticent to change because we have seen or experienced it before. So, while every bump is not a “yahoo!” what would it be like if our first reaction was less critical and more productive? Less avoidance and more slow and deliberate? More proactive, less reactionary?
- Follow up. How do we talk with one another about the challenges? In what ways do we give voice to being uncomfortable or our uncertainty about a bump in the road? Is there opportunity for preflection and reflection? What voices are at the table when talking about the bumps in the road?
Just a few questions to ponder during your next bike adventure or institutional change.