Friday, October 20, 2017

Are You a Historian, Reporter, or Futurist?


One of the books I recently finished reading was No Limits: Blow the CAP off your capacity by John Maxwell. Maxwell shares the perspective of his friend Paul Martinelli and how he has pursued continual improvement:
We have three options in life. We can be historians, reporters, or futurists. The historian wants to remind us of everything in the past and wants to filter everything in the future through that. The reporter is really attached to the conditions and circumstances of today, and that's just the way it is. The futurist focuses on what hasn't yet been done. He says, "There is more for us to do. We can do more. We can broaden our capacity. There is more of our potential we can take advantage of."
Although this idea is aimed at growing oneself and reaching your personal potential, I thought it could be applied to education as well. In school life, where do you see yourself? How does this analogy work for educators?

The historian probably complains about kids these day, remembers fondly the past as if everything in the good ole days was problem free. The historian holds onto yesterday and doesn't see much potential in tomorrow. He sees anything new as something "we already do" or that "we tried and it didn't work." There are few new possibilities worth considering. If only we could return to a time when life was good. In my experience, the historian will blame students, parents, policymakers, or just about anyone else for the problems of today. He will overestimate the accomplishments of the previous generation while underestimating the potential in the next generation.

The reporter is working tirelessly to respond to the mandates and initiatives of today. They have their heads down with their noses to the grindstone. Sometimes they forget their larger purpose or mission, but they are busy collecting data, chasing test scores, and responding to whatever urgent needs arise. They are expending tremendous energy, but there is no long term perspective. The reporter will often burn out, feeling like they are on a hamster wheel going nowhere. It's hard not to feel bitter when you play by the rules and do what you're told, but the rules keep changing or your work is never considered good enough. The reporter doesn't dare dream of a better way or a brighter tomorrow. They are just trying to cope with the realities and do what they can to survive.

The futurist always has the long term perspective. There is a great sense of mission and purpose in how amazing school could be and how important this work is for students. There is a desire to create positive change. To be a difference maker. To prepare kids for their future and not our past. They want to push forward into new territory, take risks, and do whatever it takes to create a better learning experience for students. They see what could be possible, and they work to make it reality. They invest their energy not only in the routine work of today but also in changing the trajectory of tomorrow. 

If you are a historian, you might need to find a different profession. Sorry if that offends you, but I think it's true. If you're a reporter, I invite you to become not only a doer but also a dreamer. And if you're a futurist, keep being a positive change maker. Share your passion and your vision and take steps each day to make education stronger for students.

What are your thoughts on this analogy? How would you add to it? How would you critique it? Leave a comment below or respond on Facebook or Twitter.
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