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Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Qurious Questions

Qurious Questions

By Dr. Ryan Donlan
Assistant Professor
Department of Educational Leadership
Bayh College of Education
Indiana State University

In the queue this week … my quriosity.

I’m qurious as to whether we spent the first weeks of school focused more on “people” than on “content.” 

Regarding our responsibilities as educators -- I’m also qurious ...

1.     Do we NOT treat others how we want to be treated?

Let us put some thought into the fact that the Golden Rule, or as some call it the ethic of reciprocity, can work against us.  Before we treat others the way we, ourselves, wish to be treated, wouldn’t it be prudent for us to consider the fact that others may wish to be treated differently?  For example, how many times do we teach or lead the way we like to be taught or led, and find that a few of our students and colleagues do not connect with our approach?  Cathcart & Klein (2008) noted, tongue and check, “A sadist is a masochist who follows the Golden Rule” (p. 84).

2.     Do we focus too much on self-esteem?

Are we putting carts before horses with good intentions? Let us consider a child’s self-esteem. Our media-influenced, commercially socialized, me-centered society seems to build self-esteem in our children so rampantly that kids are often blind to their own entitlement.  It doesn’t take too many trips to the county fair to see the results of everyone’s being a self-aggrandized, prince or princess.  Unfortunately, a cruel hoax is in play, resulting in a sense of inflated specialness that travels with some into adulthood, marital life, and reproduction.

We don’t have to be callous, indifferent, or sans warmth to put the horse back up front.  In fact, we simply need to focus more on self-efficacy, legitimate skill development, and authentic praise.  Those who develop self-esteem from within through effort, support, and accomplishment, rather than those who are filled from without, are adaptive (as opposed to maladaptive), realistic (as opposed to unrealistic), and self-ful (as opposed to selfish). An educator’s care and feeding of anything prefixed with “self-” directly and indirectly affects the levels of openness, persistence, and resourcefulness that visit school each and every day (and travel into life beyond).

3.     DO we reveal our insides when we’re on the outside?

A few things typically serve as windows to our souls – The way we communicate and exchange currency in a gas station/convenience store, saying, “Hi, how are you doing?  May I please have …”? rather than “I need …” is one example.   Placing our money on the counter, rather than handing it to the clerk, is another.

How many of us leave our grocery carts by our cars, when it’s raining or inconvenient, rather than taking them back to the cart corral, or leave them in an aisle when the wheels aren’t working?

As we answer these for ourselves, is whatever we are doing happening because people could be watching, or are we truly “on the outside,” the real us? 

4.     Do we “have a clue”?

How often at staff or leadership team meetings do we discuss how others perceive our performance, or how students and parents perceive us?  How often do we open up that quadrant of Johari’s window that others see, yet we do not, so that we can see ourselves from another’s perspective?

I would like to tip my hat to educators in school buildings who engage in these critical conversations in an atmosphere of trust and a culture of authenticity.  In our professional world as in Irish Proverbs, The best looking glass is the eye of a friend.

5.     Do we turn our minds?

By our very nature as educators, we have power of mind.  We’re intelligent, good school-doer’s.  But have we turn-of-mind?

Remember long ago when we learned reading comprehension strategies – some messages in the readings were delivered “on the line,” … others … “between the lines” or “beyond the lines.” 

Well, turn-of-mind learning is like reading between and beyond the lines of life to discern the deeper truths that we confront. Turning our minds sets us apart.  And, we need to be apart to solve the issues that confront our society today. We have some big issues to solve in (and through) education.

Turn-of-mind is often a sojourn obscured from immediate relevance, yet has potential for deferred, positive impact and one’s self-actualization.  It gives us permission to question why we do some of the things we do as educators (our modus operandi):    Like reading and regurgitating … like learning about this guru or that guru’s this, that, or the other thing (typically repackaged, in another form of the prior) … like regaling about yet another charlatan’s charisma from the conference attended (and buying his or her book, believing it’s research) … like hiring someone from at least 100 miles away (and thus, an expert) … like jumping on the next bandwagon of pedagogy borne of politics and pundits … like …? 

Why do we often do what we know and pass along what was done to us, when we have an ability to turn our minds, asking qurious questions that cut through the chatter of any profession’s distraction?


Cathcart, T., & Klein, D. (2008). Plato and a platypus walk into a bar …, New York, NY: Penguin Books.


Dr. Ryan Donlan offers THANKS to the ISU Ph.D. Program Residency Silver Anniversary Cohort for offering him thoughts and feedback on this week’s contribution to the Leadershop.  He teaches at Indiana State University, in the Department of Educational Leadership in the Bayh College of Education.  Please offer him your own barometric reading on the quality of quriosity, by contacting him at (812) 237-8624 or at

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