Getting Lost in the Weeds

We live and work in a rapidly changing and fast paced environment. Everyday is a flurry of emails, text messages, traffic, technology challenges, and panic attacks as we wonder how we’re going to fit it all in. It’s easy to lose direction and find yourself off wandering in the weeds. I’ve spent a bit of time there lately and I’m thinking that it may be more than time wasted, sometimes, there’s bits of treasure to be found there.

I consider myself to be a bit short sighted at times. I love the thrill and rush of jumping into something new, the excitement that is generated as you travel down an unknown path,and the challenge of making creative ideas work. It’s how I run my classroom and why my students are usually engaged. I am never satisfied with the first implementation of an assignment or project as there are always ways to improve and elevate the experience. I am continually rethinking, reframing, and starting over because I need the adrenaline rush of creating and pushing further. However, this is an exhausting cycle and difficult to maintain. I sometimes lack good follow through and overwhelm my students by the sheer pace and constant change in my classroom. I can get so caught up in creating, that I lose sight of the trail and find myself wandering with little direction, my students wandering right behind me. When this happens, I am learning to stop. I believe that when you’re out hiking a trail, and you suddenly find yourself lost, you are supposed to sit in one place and wait for rescue. Although rescue in this instance, comes from clarity.

When I’m out there sitting in the weeds, my brain has time to process and pieces that weren’t fitting, are suddenly finding their place and the trail emerges. Some of the most interesting and valuable classroom conversations evolve from these moments. One wise ten-year-old once said, “Mrs. T, if you could just give us a little more time, I’m sure we could find a better answer.” Ah, time, the most sought after commodity by everyone.

Working as a district coach, I’m seeing the same issues on a larger scale throughout districts and education in general. We introduce cutting edge initiatives and programs, hoping to push new thinking and create updated learning experiences for our students. The work is exciting and the landscape is constantly changing. We have “wow” moments and we leap into the next innovation, hoping to build on each success. Most teachers are willing participants, who are excited to engage and are happy to get caught up in the journey, however, many become overwhelmed and lost due to the rapid pace and continual uphill march. It’s difficult to sustain without well thought out support and follow through.

We need time in the weeds. It’s okay to wander from the path at times because we often find better solutions and perhaps even a better direction. The important piece is recognizing when you’re there and knowing that you need to sit down. Find the time to define needs, process, reassess, think it through. Clarity will often reveal a new path that’s easier for others to see.

cross-posted at Innovate, Create, Educate

Kami Thordarson is a graduate of the 2011 MERIT program through the Krause Center for Innovation and has led classes on project-based learning, digital storytelling, and design thinking. She is the Innovative Strategies Coach for the Los Altos School District. Read more at Innovate, Create, Educate.