Thomas Edison once said, “Hell, there are no rules here - we're trying to accomplish something.” I know as an educator, I have shared Edison’s thoughts and feelings about rules. This is probably due to the connotation the term rules has acquired over the years in schools. To us teachers, “rules” is a kind term for mandate. The more rules in place, the less power, voice, and identity we have.
These rules can put constraints on systems, leading individuals on a search for a calculated solution. But, we all know there is nothing calculated or fixed about teaching and learning. It is messy and complex, meaning we can't "plan, do, check, and adjust" or "plan, do, study, and act." We have have to notice patterns, understand their implications at all scales of the system, and begin setting conditions to reach desirable patterns, such as empathy, community, trust, openness, engagement, etc.
Some "rules" can collide with cultural, social, and emotional beliefs and push individuals out of systems, while others support safe spaces for people to take risks and be themselves.
Thomas Edison may have been able to recognize the way normalized rules hinder us from thinking outside of the box or being ourselves, but he may have missed the Simple Rules (Patterson, Holladay, Eoyang, 2013) that bind us together, open inclusive spaces, and promote curiosity and inquiry.
I wonder if Edison noticed the Simple Rules that opened doors for discovery, exploration, and invention in his own life? Without a set of Simple Rules, we struggle to notice the similarities and differences that assist with bringing about the patterns we want to see in our many worlds.
Our Simple Rules
Simple Rules can assist in setting conditions in an unpredictable world, like a classroom. When setting conditions in my many worlds, I try to follow a few Simple Rules. The hope is that an open and inclusive space emerges, one that welcomes EVERY one.
Recognize, build on, and connect with the identities and assets of self and others.
Teach and learn in
Notice, understand, and influence patterns in our local and global communities.
Be curious and explore inquiries.
Embrace uncertainties and act with courage.
Simple Rules are lived out in our social worlds as we engage and negotiate our many identities. They frame the conditions we set and are a reminder that there is no fixed, or calculated plan, to reach desirable patterns. Rather, we have to notice patterns, understand their implications, and influence these patterns, in order to be adaptive and responsive to the patterns emerging around us.
Patterson, L., Holladay, R., & Eoyang, G. (2013). Radical rules for school: Adaptive action for complex change. Circle Pines, MN: Human Systems Dynamics Institute.
Writing from a personal perspective has been hard for me lately. I’d sit down with 10,000 thoughts and my journal, but nothing would come out.
The next day, I tried it again in a different context. I sat down on the couch with 10,000 thoughts and a blank Word document open and stared.
I stared at the blank pages until Joplin woke up from a nap with her hands raised in the air or until I realized that I was only going to get five hours of sleep if I went to bed right at that moment.
Today was different, though.
Today, there was a sense of
to sit down and write.
This urgency came from my belief that the children in our world need to be equipped with the voice to speak up for injustices and inequalities.
This urgency came from my faith that the children in our world will build the courage to take risks.
And most important, this urgency came from my hope that children in our world get to explore ideas that challenge their beliefs and have access to the tools and thinking patterns to make this world a better place.
Because MORE THAN EVER, we need citizens like this. Our world needs strong citizens that believe in democracy, where the voices, identities, and power are shared equally among everyone in the community.
Used with Permission from Human Systems Dynamics
Without all of this, there is no telling what world we will send our children into. I hope this blog can be a space that initiates a serious conversation about democratic classrooms in the 21st century, the Simple Rules we follow, and the conditions we set to reach shared identity, voice, and power.
Holladay, R. (2017, May). Generative Engagement: Description of Generative Engagement [Blog post]. Retrieved from: http://www.hsdinstitute.org/resources/blog-generative-engagement-leverage-dynamics.html