I found out a couple of months ago that I have a small wrinkle in the retina of my right eye. I didn’t notice anything … just kept changing my answers to the optometrist’s question, “Which is more clear … this one … or this one?” No need to do anything about it … I can live with it for another 40 or 50 years. I figure by that time the rest of me will be just as wrinkled.
It got me thinking … how do the wrinkles in our belief systems distort our views of life, others, our experiences, our decisions, our teaching? As a marriage and family therapist, I used the analogy of the window screen. When we look through our screen some of the holes are filled in, causing a distorted view. Some of us have more spaces filled in than others; some have entire sections of the screen blocked out; we all have different combinations of spaces blocked. So everyone’s perception of reality is different. Always a source of conflict … another topic for a later date.
As educators, how do we ensure that the crusty parts of our screens aren’t impairing our decision-making, especially regarding what’s best for our students? First and foremost, we have to work hard at identifying our blind spots. Next, acknowledge those biases and begin to reframe the distortions – move a little to see through the screen from a different angle. Last, we must reflect on how our wrinkled reality affects our decisions – and how those decisions are affecting others. It takes a commitment and some real thought to minimize the impact of our distortions on other people. We have to see past our wrinkles … and other’s wrinkles … to figure out what’s best. KEY: Keep focusing on what’s best.
My goal for the next 40-50 years: get as wrinkled as I can … those wrinkles are my life medals. I think I might even name each wrinkle – this will help me reflect on its impact on my perceptions and continue to increase clarity of thought and action. The result … better and better choices – for me – my loved ones – my students – and my colleagues. Last, in my most wrinkled times I want to be walking on the beach where the air is clear and the horizon is still unreachable. In the meantime, my screens will be getting regular cleanings.
Oh, and don’t forget … wrinkles and risk-taking are not mutually exclusive. Keep pushing the limits! Don’t let your wrinkles slow you down.