Conditioned to Kink

Two recent conversations have come together for create a profound insight for me and my role as an educator and school leader.

First three good friends, Glenn Robbins, Winston Sakurai and Bill Ziegler recommended a book, Leadership Isn’t for Cowards, in a great Voxer chat. This is a book to fire up anyone working with groups of people. Of the many resonating points in the book, one that led to some great conversation with my admin team was about a leader’s role in ‘unkinking the hose’, removing barriers so colleagues can do their their job effectively, efficiently and innovatively.  Think of all the pinch points [kinks in hoses] in your school that prevent progress and forward thinking. How could removing these organizational kinks dramatically change learning and teaching and growth in your school?

Second, last week James Pittman, @wrmstech shared an article with me about the communication philosophy and goals of Elon Musk for the employees at Tesla. The next day he and I had a great follow up discussion about how much a flattened organization structure is needed but there can be organizational barriers that prohibit it.

But what happens when these kinks are not just organizational?

What happened if we bring the kinks?

Our job as educators is design learning and teaching experiences for students that allow them to productively struggle for answers, search for solutions and achieve goals set for students [ideally with students].  Our own learning experiences as K-16 learners can serve as a kink for designing next level learning experiences is we hold traditional learning as the penultimate for experiences.

Holding onto a traditional thinking of failure, win or lose, is a kink that prevents us from building mastery learning experiences in our learners. We were brought up in a system of A’s, B’s, C’s, D’s and F’s; where turning in late assignments was could only be punished not coached. We taught in a system where teachers were given a thumbs up or down and were labelled as good or bad. It is a real barrier for school leaders today who have to embrace their role as coaches.

I’ve reflected on other kinks we bring to the table:

  • A need to respect and fear the boss that keeps us from appreciating the leadership or strengths of others that can help us grow;
  • ‘Winning at all costs’ attitude that prohibits us from celebrating our colleagues growth and struggles;
  • A fear of failure that keeps us from trying new things our learners should experience;
  • Learning stops if we aren’t in class or school;
  • Defining ourselves as an expert;
  • Valuing immediate praise over hard work;


Its important to ask what kinks we are preprogrammed with but its just as important to look at what kinks our grade levels, departments, teachers, counselors, administrators have. We need to look at what kinks we have inherited and ones we can let go with a decision and a conversation. And after you’ve identified personal/organizational kinks, do you have an accountability partner to help you along the way.

Students win when we unkink hoses.

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