I recently saw this video clip on Twitter of a young Steve Jobs talking to a room full of people.

Here’s an excerpt from the video:

How many of you are from manufacturing companies? Oh, excellent… Where are the rest of you from?

How many from consulting? Oh, that’s bad. You should do something.

No seriously, I don’t think there’s anything inherently evil in consulting. I think that… I think that without owning something over an extended period of time, like a few years, where one has a chance to take responsibility for one’s recommendations… where one has to see one’s recommendations through all action stages and accumulate scar tissue for the mistakes and pick oneself up off the ground and dust oneself off… one learns a fraction of what one can… coming in and making recommendations and not owning the results, not owning the implementation, I think is… is a fraction of the value and a fraction of the opportunity to learn and get better.

I love what Jobs says about taking responsibility for one’s recommendations and seeing a process through all the way to the end. It’s definitely apropos within the field of education. Consultants are helpful when they enter a school or district, share their point-of-view, explain how to make their recommendation work within the organization, and then stay until their implementation succeeds. Effective consultants sweat and bleed with administrators and teachers. They own what they preach.

Consultants who arrive, share a bit of what they know, and then leave aren’t inherently evil (as Jobs says), but they have no skin in the game when it comes to your organization. A consultant who becomes your partner and suffers the same scars as you is a sister or brother in the quest for improving student learning. And both of you learn an incredible amount of information together.

As always, it’s all about skin in the game.

Five C’s

I’ve expanded and modified my definitions of educators and their relationships with technology:

  1. Cliff Divers: Coined by my friend, Nathan Garvin, Cliff Divers do exactly what the name suggests: They dive into the new and unknown. Does it matter if they’ve never heard of a new technology? By no means; they’ll use whatever looks promising and assess its effect later.

  2. Curators: These are the teachers who are on the prowl for the best, and only the best, apps, devices, etc. They’ll wait until they hear good things about a product, try it, and then either keep it or toss it. Curators rarely share what they’ve discovered, but when they do, it’s pure gold.

  3. Cluttered: These educators will try everything and then try some more. Their students are always learning new programs, piloting new apps, and (perhaps unfortunately) focused more on the technology than the content. Cluttered teachers are good because they dig up a lot of stuff and help the Cliff Divers and Curators find the good material.

  4. Cautious: Whenever new technology is introduced, the Cautious are apt to be skeptical. ‘How is this better than what I’m already doing without technology?’ is a standard question. These educators will ask Cliff Divers, Curators, and Cluttered teachers tough questions, which are needed whenever new technology is introduced into a classroom.

  5. Critical: The Critical teachers don’t like change and probably never will. Most things that are new are seen as a threat, which often agitates the Critical educators. They are the workers, as Jim Collins would say, who need to either get on or off the bus.

Most teachers fall on a spectrum and probably encompass more than one of the C‘s. With all the change happening in education right now, it’s a good time for introspection.

Welcome to change

For school districts across the country, there are a lot of changes happening right now.

Common Core

Curriculum adoptions

New technology

That last one incorporates a lot. The technology that teachers can use to enhance pedagogy is truly remarkable, and there’s never been another time in history that it’s being developed at such an incredible rate.

There are some educators who are up to the challenge and dive into the use of new apps and devices. Others may not try everything, but rather decide to curate best-practices.

There are also teachers who feel skeptical. “It it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” They’ve been teaching well for years, so technology is a disruption.

Then there are teachers who are afraid of technology. They’d like to be knowledgeable, but there’s just too much. Combine the many devices and websites with the implementation of Common Core this year, and it’s enough to send some people over the edge (or to an early happy hour).

Here’s what we need to keep in mind: Education is always in a state of flux. Change, disruption, uncertainty–these words will be used to describe schooling for many years to come. Teachers must embrace the unknown and set their minds on the fact that being uncomfortable is an ongoing reality. Is this a bad thing? Not really. Treading water makes a person stronger. As long as we can keep our heads above water, work hard to embrace innovation within the field of education, and learn how to teach rigorous courses at the high levels Common Core demands, the students will thrive.