The Definition of Insanity

You’ve heard the phrase before:  Doing the same thing over and over again but expecting different results is the definition of insanity.

When I’ve recognized it, I nod my head in agreement:  surely, this (whatever I’m doing at the time) is insane.  We’ve all been there, and hopefully, when we see that the same old processes and actions aren’t producing the results we want, we change course.

How is it we can recognize these patterns in our everyday lives, but not in education?

ticked off student

In a recent article, Valerie Strauss of the Washington Post quotes the work of Alfie Kohn, in which he outlines ten things about learning that are absolutely true, yet we continue to largely ignore them in our educational system.  You can read the article in its entirety by clicking here, but for your brief reading purposes, here are the “Ten Obvious Truths About Educating Kids that Keep Getting Ignored:”

  1. Much of the material students are required to memorize is soon forgotten.
  2. Just knowing a lot of facts doesn’t mean you’re smart.
  3. Students are more likely to learn what they find interesting.
  4. Students are less interested in whatever they’re forced to do, and more enthusiastic when they have some say.
  5. Just because doing X raises standardized test scores doesn’t mean X should be done.
  6. Students are more likely to succeed in a place where they feel known and cared about.
  7. We want children to develop in many ways, not just academically.
  8. Just because a lesson (or book, or class, or test) is harder, doesn’t mean it’s better.
  9. Kids aren’t just short adults.
  10. Substance matters more than labels.

If we are all talking about education reform, but continuing to ignore these naturally-occurring truths about children and how they learn, we aren’t going to change anything.  We’re going to continue to spin in this endless cycle of dissatisfaction, continue to throw money at the problem rather than real solutions, and in the generations to come, we’ll wonder why we’ve “fallen behind” – which is a another discussion in and of itself.

Let’s stop the insanity.


Amazing things just keep happening.  And I’m not complaining.

So, here I sit with not much to do.  Actually, I have plenty to do – it just feels like I have very little to do.  Why, you ask?  Well, that is because I’m not doing this anymore:

this is not me... but it's a good indicator of my past 2 years

this is not me… but it’s a good indicator of my past 2 years

Well, at least not for now.

A week ago today was the final day of my graduate study.  I’m done!  I did it!  I earned my Masters of Education in Teacher Leadership! 

And did I mention that I did it as a new mom, with a needy baby, and managed to maintain a 4.0 GPA in the process?

Yeah, I just said that.

Because, you know, I don’t brag.  I really don’t.  I don’t like braggarts, and I try not to be one.  But, when you work so hard on something, and it challenges you and pushes you to your limits, and meanwhile you have a screaming child who desperately needs you and you’re trying to figure out motherhood and get a degree and you do MORE than just “the minimum required”  – you need to take a moment and say, I just did that.

And really, if I am to tell the truth, there was a whole lotta God up in here and prayers these past 2 years, too… because I can do all things through Him, and I really can’t do anything without Him, either.

So, the last feat of this advanced degree was to create and give a presentation on how I’ve grown because of the program, how the program has influenced my career, and how I’m planning to use what I’ve learned in the future.

I put together a lovely PowerPoint presentation and practiced.  And then I realized I needed to just speak from my heart and vamp a little.

Then the big day came and I gave the presentation.  But first, let me give you the drama…

On my way to Rowan to give said presentation, I got stuck in a major traffic jam.  I mean, major.  Like, tractor-trailer-turned-over-during-rush-hour-on-a-2-lane-highway-major.  Panic sets in.  Sheer, unadulterated panic.  I start texting very bad words to my husband – because someone has to know the personal hell I’ve just encountered.  Then I call my academic advisor.  She miraculously answers the phone.  It’s going to be ok.

So, I finally arrive at school and park illegally.  Well, it wasn’t really illegal – just the wrong parking lot for which I had no parking tag.  Oh well.  Bigger fish to fry.

Anyhow, I blaze into the Education building and find the presentation room.  I only missed one presentation so far.  Sigh of relief.

I watched a fellow student give her presentation and then it was my turn.  I gave my presentation in spite of being completely thrown off by the traffic jam, being a half hour late, and my jangled nerves.

I nail it.

At the end of the presentation (which, up to this point, I was still worried about) the head of the Teacher Leadership program says to me, and I quote, “Wow.  You really know your stuff!”

She goes on to say more very nice things to me and I turn a deeper shade of red with each compliment.

hyperbole and a half really

Have you ever had one of those experiences where you are outside of your head, but still thinking to yourself, “Holy cow, is this really happening right now?”  Yeah… that was my out-of-body-experience throughout the feedback on my presentation.  I couldn’t believe what I was hearing… but then again, I guess on some level, I could believe it.  I have worked very hard these past 2 years and my final presentation was no exception.

After the presentations were all completed, three of the six professors on the panel said more lovely and wonderful things to me about my presentation, my speaking skills, my ability to connect with a crowd, my knowledge of the program, and so on.

And then they made some suggestions about my career path and the next steps I should take.

And then I pooped myself a little.

Not really, but it was amazing and I probably should have.

Let’s just say that I would have been perfectly happy to have just given my presentation, collected my certificate, and moved on with my life.  But that night, I got so much more than I could have ever imagined.

For some very real personal and professional reasons, I’m not going to divulge the nitty-gritty details of everything that occurred later and the marvelous, lovely things that continued to be said, but I will give you a hint:

My career plans have changed.  BIG.  TIME.

I was set for one particular path, but now I’ve taken stock of where I am and what I’ve accomplished, along with the suggestions of the professors on the panel, and realize I belong on another course.

In time, those plans will be revealed, but for now – after all of the hard work, and wondering many, many times if it was all even worth it, and then finally hearing how valuable I really am:

joy sunset

Hello, Validation.  It’s nice to meet you.

*once again, my thanks to Allie Brosh at HyperboleAndAHalf for all her cartoon genius.