2019 Reflections — Goal 2: Reality

This is part 2 of my self-evaluations of my “Four Things to Be Relentless about in 2019,” which were Inclusion, Reality, Collaboration, and Positivity. You can read part 1 here.

This is how I summarized Thing 2:


Practically no one’s actual situation is remotely close to ideal: curricular requirements issued from on high, tests students must take, time and funds a program or person doesn’t have—all these place a logistical and psychological strain on the people involved. I’m more focused than ever on helping people get the most from their time and efforts within those constraints, even as I labor to loosen them.

Here are some things I did and some things I still want to do.

Some things I did

outdoor brick stairs going up along brick wall with green vines—devoted more time and attention to the investigative phase of my work with schools, districts, and organizations, especially to understanding constraints that won’t change anytime soon. These include ideological, financial, and other logistical constraints.

—placed a greater focus on helping teachers with disparate educational philosophies and skillsets work and grow together. Already before this year I was frequently invited precisely because of my apparent skill in this area, but I have begun to take more seriously that practically every organization exhibits such differences and is likely to continue to.

—started collaborating more—see the next post on Goal 3.

—published a series of Tuned-In Teacher Mantras designed to help teachers thrive in the realities they face.

—wrote the first third of a book that supplements the Mantras with a few hundred practical applications for teachers, students, departments, schools, districts, and communities.

—took more seriously my physical and mental limitations as a self-employed teacher, speaker, and content producer who travels almost every week. This has included farming out some operations that don’t require my particular expertise and granting myself recovery days after longer trips. I still have a long way to go in this area—see below.

Note: My efforts in support of DEI (described in last week’s Reflection 1) are efforts to take seriously the reality of injustice and exclusion in education and the world.

Some things I still want to do

—finish the book described above.

—complete and continue the creation of other materials that help real-life teachers and learners flourish within their constraints.

—take more seriously the realities of my own situation: being kind to myself, planning for rhythms in my cycles of work trips. I crashed physically and mentally several times this year, sometimes hard, and don’t want to let it happen again.


—Paying attention to the reality/realities of teachers’ circumstances has softened the edges of pedagogical and curricular debate. A lot of debate assumes ideal conditions. It’s certainly the case that some constraints require all the more care in curricular and pedagogical decisions, but other constraints make debate moot, which can lead to increased collaboration on matters that can actually be changed.

—I’ve always enjoyed the thrill and artistry of working within constraints, like a photographer using analog film or a chef with seasonal ingredients. Using my experience and expertise to help teachers and learners flourish within their constrained realities has become one of the most rewarding aspects of my work.

—While this goal area is mainly about working within constraints, I try to pair it with working to remove constraints. Sometimes it really is possible to alter scheduling requirements, curricular expectations, funding, materials, and other factors that can make for unideal realities. I’ll keep aiming to help people experience joy and success within their realities while helping these realities change for the better through advocacy at as many levels as possible.

How have you been taking reality seriously? How do you want to do so more in 2020?

Up next: Things I did and want to do re: Goal 3, Collaboration

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