"Life is not an illogicality; yet it is a trap for logicians. It looks just a little more mathematical and regular than it is; its exactitude is obvious, but its inexactitude is hidden; its wildness lies in wait.”
Chesterton, G. K. (1949). Orthodoxy. Dodd, Mead.
THE MEAT (The Main Idea)
My introduction to the words of Gilbert Keith Chesterton, known as G.K. Chesterton, was not through his own writings but rather courtesy of the educational giant, Michael Fullan. In Fullan's book Leading in a Culture of Change, he thoughtfully declared, "We are living in chaotic conditions. Thus, leaders must be able to operate under complex, uncertain circumstances. For this reason, I dedicate the book to the chaos theory..." (Fullan, 2001, p. xiii).
Who dedicates a book to the chaos theory?
Michael Fullan does!
This dedication not only piqued my curiosity but also ignited my curiosity, leading me to discover the works of G.K. Chesterton. Let me be clear, I am not a Chesterton expert, but I quickly recognized him as a profound thinker who thrived on contradictions.
Who is G.K. Chesterton? A simple internet search will provide you with abundant information. What I can say is he remains an underrated, deep thinker whose influence extends beyond my capacity to do him justice. What I do know is, if he caught Michael Fullan's attention, he has certainly earned mine.
Our snippet of a quote, in essence is saying, despite our reliance on mathematical formulas and scientific theories, life stubbornly refuses to yield to predictability. Chesterton reminds us that life exists not in the extremes of pure logic or utter chaos but in a delicate paradox—a precise balance of order and unpredictability. There are few purely right or wrong, yes or no explanations. Instead, we often find ourselves standing at the crossroads of reason and irregularity, where the desire for clear-cut solutions clashes with the complexity of internal and external variables. Chesterton loves pulling at the edges of paradoxes and probing the contradictions of thought. He provokes us to consider that life, though it may often appear logical and well-ordered, remains profoundly unpredictable and, at times, irrational.
It is not hard to see why this quote applies so smoothly to the world of education, so let's dive in.
THE CHEESE (Added Depth)
In the world of education, teachers and all educators often find themselves teetering on a precarious tightrope. On one side, there's the polished packaging of "best practices" and "research-based strategies," promising clarity and direction in the classroom in 5 easy steps. On the other side, the chaotic reality of the classroom demands immediate, often gut-driven decisions rooted in intuition. This is the gut check every teacher faces—the relentless tension between what the research suggests and what their years of experience whisper.
It's a daily tightrope walk, a balancing act that requires unwavering attention to the ever-shifting needs of their students. Often, good teachers are unconsciously competent decision-makers that seamlessly combine research-based methods with their teacher intuition to provide precisely what the student needs. There are no easy answers in this realm. The complexities of human learning and development defy the neat packages of research. Teachers must first know their students so well that they can trust their decisions and lean on their expertise, built through countless hours of navigating these corridors of unpredictability. They know that in their classrooms, "if this, then" (predictable) is often replaced with "Miss, I had a bad morning" (unpredictable).
In this dynamic interplay of structured research and intuitive practice, educators fully embrace the wild, beautiful unpredictability of the human learning journey. G.K. Chesterton, in his wisdom, might as well have been describing every classroom across the United States when he penned his words back in 1903. While his quote originally dug into moral relativism and religion, it now serves as a passionate portrait of the classroom—a realm where logic and chaos continually dance, where educators, like skilled tightrope walkers, keep the learning journey on a balanced line.
THE OLIVES (A Surprising Element)
In my role as a consultant and coach, (but always a teacher), I encountered a captivating challenge while collaborating with a school district. The district had ambitious intentions—to reinvigorate WIN Time (What I Need), an initiative dedicated to nurturing students' growth and engagement. As we got started, teachers were presented with a graphic outlining the essence of WIN Time, accompanied by what it wasn't meant for. Amid the discussions, one particular point sparked considerable debate—the statement that WIN Time is not for "catch up."
Let's clarify—we're not advocates of a rigid "always" or "never" approach. Instead, we believe in the judicious use of common sense, making it align with the context. While utilizing WIN Time for catch-up tasks might aid individual students with missing assignments, and is briefly necessary, it's crucial to recognize that it alone cannot bridge the academic achievement gaps.
This is where we encounter the intricate balance, akin to walking a tightrope, boldly confronting the challenge. Rather than teetering on the edge, we chose to embrace it, inviting teachers to become active participants in shaping WIN Time into a potent educational tool. It presented an opportunity for teachers to experiment and blend research-backed strategies with their invaluable teacher intuition to craft tailor-made solutions for students' unique needs—providing them with precisely what they need to succeed (WIN).
So, teachers, don't revert to old thinking and routines. Embrace the unpredictability and classroom chaos as an exciting (and expected) opportunity to say, "Well, I didn't see that coming this morning, but watch me channel my inner Destiny's Child – I'm not giving up, not gonna stop until we figure it out."
Not that we need much of a reminder, but educators "...its wildness lies in wait.” Embrace the unpredictability; it's the canvas upon which we paint our imaginative solutions. Within the fields of education, leadership, and coaching, everyone can be an innovator. These professionals, when they wholeheartedly embrace the inherent unpredictability of their work, possess the ability to transform challenges into opportunities, surprises into innovations, and chaos into creativity.