Near the end of the second day of #fuse13, my brain was really struggling to focus, so I started a whiteboard doodle to keep me on track. It is sort of funny what emerges for me as I listen, process, and create in the same arc of learning. During this time, I spent some moments trying to connect the work of systems thinking to design thinking looking for connections and overlaps. I found myself thinking about the ladder of inference in systems thinking that calls on us to look beyond tasks and assumption to the underlying mental models of the situation. I believe the discover and empathy phases of design thinking ask the same from us. Are we stuck on the surface? Can we solve bigger and more issues by going deeper.
In this thought space, I also wandered into the ideas that as we look to maximize the engagement of all students that each student will have their own natural flow to their daily engagement which creates no rhythm for a classroom designed to function at peak performance only when all learners are engaged at the same level. Our learning at #fuse13 stressed the importance of both task and maintenance (the art of tending to group needs), and every individual is ebbing and flowing through their needs in these two areas. Because of this, our schools need a greater awareness to this situation as well as a dynamic learning environment that can meet the task and maintenance needs of all learners at the same time.
A lot of conversation surrounding building a better first week of school for learners (this was the design challenge) surrounded minimizing anxiety in our students as they enter a new transition. On my doodle, I found three interconnected circles surrounding connectedness, loneliness, and belonging. They seem to overlap and have their own unique nature, but they seem to be at the root of some of the foundational work necessary for our schools to reach peak performance. They are actually essential to grow adult learners as well. The struggles of loneliness creep into my work a lot, and my professional learning network and events like #Fuse13 help to shield me from the emotional beast that comes with a hovering cloud of loneliness.
Finally, it's not about you; it's about me. The Seinfeld reference clicked in for me as I charted the ideas about how below the line between group task and group maintenance lies the structures, group, interpersonal, and finally the individual reasons why groups aren't in the flow. I too often associate issues in group dynamics with a person's decision in a moment, but it truly is more layered and the structures that we establish, the traditions and rituals of a space, and the interconnectedness of life between people in the group play huge roles in making things work.