Think Again

Last week was spring break, which was a great time to rest and recharge. We didn’t go anywhere this year, so I was able to enjoy a lot of time at home with family, some time doing projects around the house, some yardwork, several bike rides and workouts, and lots of time reading. Just prior to the break, I started reading Think Again by Adam Grant. I was first introduced to Grant’s work through his TED Talk: The surprising habits of original thinkers. If you’ve never seen this talk, take a few minutes to watch it now:

This TED Talk led me to Grant’s previous book, Originals. If you’ve never read it, you should pick it up. When I saw that there was a new book coming out, I placed a preorder without even really knowing what the book would be about.

Think Again was such a great read that I wanted to share a few of my takeaways from the book. The gist of the book is that there is a great amount of benefit in doubt. Embracing the unknown and finding joy in being wrong can actually help us to be more creative. In the book, Grant shares that creative geniuses are not attached to one idea or identity, but rather that they are able to rethink. Alvin Toffler, an American writer and futurist, shared that “the illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.” My greatest takeaway from this book was the idea of being flexible in our thinking, be willing to treat our ideas as hunches or hypothesis and get really comfortable when admitting that you’re wrong.

Throughout Part 1 of the book, Grant focused in on Individual Rethinking. What I find is that the key is for us to practice moments of intellectual curiosity. Instead of choosing to defend your own belief just because someone else’s idea doesn’t fit, get curious. “How do you know that?” is a great question to ask to try to dig a little deeper. Understanding where someone is coming from may help you find that there is some common ground in your seemingly different opinions.

So, let’s bring this back to education. One of the things that I have found is that there are certain topics that seem to be “sacred cows.” The number of times I’ve been told that’s the way we’ve (or I’ve) always done it is enough to drive me crazy. What if the thing that you learned as a “best practice” actually isn’t really best anymore? What if there is a better practice out there? Maybe one form of rethinking we need to do is throw out the term best practices and replace it with the concept of better practices.

But look, I’m not saying we have to rethink everything about education! In the past year and a half, we’ve been working on forming a new vision for learning for my current school. It’s been a long and arduous process, but after gathering information from a variety of stakeholders, our vision setting team has landed on 5 key concepts that we aspire to bring to our school:

  • Project-Based Learning
  • Innovation
  • Collaboration
  • Empowerment
  • Inclusivity

Now, there may be some that see those phrases – especially project-based learning – and think that this means we are going to have to completely revamp our curriculum. I don’t believe that is accurate. While there may be some changes in the way we do things, I still foresee times of reading, writing and math. There are still times we might use a math book, or a writer’s notebook. When we think about rethinking, finding the aspects that don’t have to change may make us a little more comfortable with the change that’s coming.

I’d like to think that rethinking is a skill that I have. I don’t often get set on an idea until I’ve had some time to think things over, talk to a variety of people, and let my thinking simmer for a bit. There are definitely some ideas that have really shifted in my beliefs in the past 18 years I’ve been in education. I find that often when I take the time to process, and gather thoughts from others, the ideas I have end up being even better than my initial thought. And I hate to be put on the spot and tell someone an exact answer right away. I know that there are times that people come to me with issues seeking an immediate solution. I often will ask them when they need to have a response from me. If it’s not right away, I ask them if we can circle back to the topic at some later date or time so that I have time to think and rethink.

What are your thoughts about rethinking? Have you read Think Again? Or are you tempted to pick it up? I very much recommend the time spent. Also, I’m curious, what’s something that you’ve rethought? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

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