Applied Awareness

In one of this year’s outstanding leadership books, “Apples Are Square”, authors Susan and Thomas Kuczmarski interviewed Lambert & Associates vice-president of Client Affairs, Brian Sorge

So many people lack what I call applied awareness. You can give me all the awareness in the world, but you also have to be able to translate that into behavior. In corporate America, it is okay to talk about behavior, but difficult to get beyond talking. That level is not deep enough to make an impact. It allows people to feel like they are changing when they really are not. It is very superficial.

Applied awareness focuses on putting our thoughts into action and translating our intentions into behaviors.

Maybe that’s why we educational bloggers seem to be complaining that no matter how much we blog, no matter how passionate we feel about transforming our schools, change doesn’t seem to be coming any quicker. I tend to feel that frustration myself sometimes.

Perhaps blogging is mostly about developing our own and our audience’s awareness and as Sorge says,

….it is okay to talk about behavior, but difficult to get beyond talking. That level is not deep enough to have an impact. It allows people to feel like they are changing when they really are not.

Maybe we bloggers feel that by writing we are taking action, we are changing behaviors…but maybe blogging is fundamentally just insight and talk. When I was a kid I remember someone labeled as “all talk, no action.”

If we have an awareness that politics in our district is holding back change; how will we become more politically effective? If we are aware that teachers in our school need to reconnect with their professional purpose and feel the fire of excitement they felt when they first entered the profession; how will we become more inspirational? If there are “fierce conversations” that need to take place; how will we prepare ourselves so that they are effective and accomplish the outcomes we desire?

The list is endless.

Until we “apply our awareness”, I fear that change will continue to be elusive.


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7 thoughts on “Applied Awareness

  1. When it’s one teacher or two or twenty against the faceless, gargantuan administration, it’s easy for teachers to feel as if they can change the behavior of the district.

    I continue to adocate smaller districts as a way for schools to be more about community learning, and therefore find this applied awareness. It’s easier to talk to the superindendent, for example, when he’s supervising 40 schools rather than 140.

    That’s how teachers can effect change. Against the influence of an ungainly downtown, they’ll give up, battered to the side. Against a smaller, more focused bureaucrat, they’ll find some success, at least.

  2. My feeling is that everyone should seek to effect change where ever they can. For most teachers that’s in their own classrooms.

    So if I am a teacher, part of my job is to be reflective about my teaching and my kids learning. As I become aware of some things that I could change to make my classroom even better than it is now; I “apply my awareness” there.

    I may have to change some things about my personality. Maybe I love to talk and I need to talk less? Maybe I need to slow down and ask more questions? Maybe I need to give up some of the stage and let kids do more of the work? Maybe I need to take a few risks and try some new ways of doing things? You get the idea.

    As far as larger change is concerned…district, state, federal; teachers have a lot of power as expressed through the unions and associations that speak on their behalf. I think it is an individual issue about how to “apply awareness” there.

    It’s not about changing other people. (Administrators, et al..) It’s about changing ourselves. Doing so will lead to many other changes.


  3. What kinds of change? What sorts of personal reforms? What personal epiphany do teachers need?

    Moreover, teachers as individuals, or teachers as a group? If teachers don’t change, I’m unclear how that hurts the student.

    For myself, a lack of change indicates that the method, in tandem with personality, approaches the ideal method.

    Why fix yourself if you’re not broken? Being that it’s implausible to be perfect, and considering the high difficulty in finding something that works, I understand teachers who legitimately feel they’ve experimented themselves out.

    I’m not sure I advocate it, but that’s the way it is.

  4. I originally began to think about the statement “Applied awareness focuses on putting our thoughts into action and translating our intentions into behaviors.” I agree with eye on how we can internalize this for our classrooms and as teachers. We can make changes and take actions within those environments. I question Peter saying that unions are the group to turn to as the voice for teachers. I don’t believe all organizations empower teachers to create change and have their voices heard. But it is a much much bigger issue than this. Let’s think of it differently. Teachers are in their classrooms allday and don’t have the opportunity to see the big picture or should I say participate in the big picture because of the infrastructures we have created in our schools. To empower and nurture ideas and thoughts being put into action we can look at that infrastructure so teachers can sit around the table with us during planning and implementation. It isn’t just an idea or an intention it is planning, conversation, brainstorming, revising etc. I don’t feel we provide an environment for that to happen and it can’t be in isolation but it can be if it is within a classroom environment since teachers have control over that area. Teachers unions often represent contractual issues and working conditions not curriclum and instructional practice.

  5. I had a few more thoughts on the subject that were really spawned by the expectation that teachers can become leaders just because…. There is so much involved in the transition. I originally thought that by empowering and giving our teacher leader tools they can become leaders. That they could act as that link and hands on in the trenches leadership to work alongside administrators and others to impact change. I am now learning that more has to be done to improve the trust in an organization before this can take place so the issue is larger than just creating leaders. In our district the teachers have begun to feel a bit “in the middle”. Some have actually accused them of being “informants” to the administrators. Instead of working alongside they are thinking they are a bridge to administration and some of those relationships they shared with other teachers have strained a bit. It isn’t overwhelming but enough to plan for and address. As admnistrators we like to think that we are great participants and work alongside teachers and that would go along with any organization including an officer in an organization. The perception is we all work together but something inside of us, or perhaps the way were brought up still places those in power in a not so even role and that somehow it still will not allow total disclosure or trust. It is all related to applied awareness and action but it is not that easy. Are individuals strong enough to navigate the fall out from not always being a part of that larger organization that doesn’t necessarily represent anything but the lowest on Blooms list – needs and working conditions and salary.

  6. Shelley,
    I’ll bring it back to Senge’s quote:

    “….it is okay to talk about behavior, but difficult to get beyond talking. That level is not deep enough to have an impact. It allows people to feel like they are changing when they really are not.”

    Your last two comments are your insights…now how do “apply your awareness”, for yourself. What personal changes would make you more effective as a change agent? (This is a rhetorical question)


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