Please allow me to introduce myself! I’m Steve Joordens and, like many of you, I’m afraid I have become addicted to improving myself as an educator. Along the way I have written some articles here on Academic Matters, and for reasons perhaps only they understand, the powers that be have asked if might consider becoming a regular blogger. While blogging is new to me, spewing my opinions is not! So I thought I would begin by laying out the philosophy that underlies my willingness (some might say over-willingness!) to speak my mind.
Let me start here. Why is it that we all sometimes feel inhibited about sharing our perspective on some issue with others? I think it’s because of what I will call opinion petrification. You know those petrified forests? Those once-wooden trees that somehow were transformed into rock? Well, I think we sometimes worry that when we allow our opinions access to the world by releasing them from our mouths (or fingers) they similarly become set in stone. Once spoken the opinion is ours, bound forever to be THE representation of our perspective on the issue in question.
Opinion petrification, though, is only as real as you allow it to be. I encourage everyone I meet to simply scoff at the notion. Instead, they should view opinions as representing one’s current representation of some issue given the various perspectives they have viewed it from … so far! In fact, spewing one’s opinions should be done in a manner that invites new perspectives, perspectives that will optimally help form a more complete (if complex) representation. This evolution, though, requires the first step of bravely stating what one cuurrently thinks with the clear understanding that stating the opinion is Step 1 in an iterative process.
Step 2 is listening. I think the greatest evidence for opinion petrification comes in resistance to engage in Step 2. Often we speak, then defend. Instead, we should speak, then shut up and listen until Step 3 is complete
Step 3? Thinking. Does what you heard in Step 2 alter your opinion at all? If so, admit it! Embrace the change even if it demands you to complicate or even change your opinion. And then … return to Step 1, and speak.
As I express my current opinions on this blog I certainly hope I model all that I have just stated. I will state an opinion both because it reflects my current view on some issue, but also in hopes that it will provoke some of you to give me perspectives that could be new to me, perspectives that may alter my opinion.
This is going to be fun!