T&L Advisor Guest post—Henry Thiele, Chief Technology Officer for District 207 in Park Ridge, IL: I continue to be reminded in my career that having too much confidence in what you know and believe can really be dangerous, but listening with an open mind can save you. There are many times when someone tells me that something is broken or that a system is misbehaving and I say to myself “I am sure that what they are telling me is impossible-it doesn’t work that way,” and after looking into it I find the impossible just came true. For example, I worked in a school once where the teachers in one wing told me that every time it rained, their Internet got slow or stopped working altogether. I told them that that was crazy. There was no reasonable explanation why the rain should slow down or stop the Internet. Months later, we found a pinhole leak that would deposit a drop of water on the port of a switch that would periodically mess up the Internet connection only when it rained. My overconfidence in what I already thought I knew got in the way of solving the actual problem. Worse than that, it stopped me from believing there was a problem at all.
As I listen to recent topics in the news, I hear many voices talking about how things cannot happen, how change is impossible, or just outright ignoring problems that exist. As educators, setting the example for our students and society we need to take on the mindset that every task or change we take on is going to have issues that emerge. Our challenge is to carefully listen to each problem, determine its origin, and work to solve it while knowing that each solution brings more problems and the cycle continues. Many of us in schools are hitting the point of the year where we are dreaming big for next year and into the future. The trap that is waiting for us is the fear of unknown problems and it has the potential to stop us from taking risks to improve what we do for our students. Although you must listen to these problems and believe that they may be real, you must also realize that the joy of your big ideas is making them happen even though challenges stand in the way.
Look around today and find the project where fear and disbelief is preventing great change. Reach out to your network and ask them to help you get to where you need to be. Move forward with your ears and mind open, while confident in your abilities to achieve the greater good, and make the impossible come true. Your idea cannot be any crazier than rain stopping the Internet.