The Cult of Done

So what is it about teaching and learning that drives us to being done? What makes us think there is an end state?What might happen if we let go of the idea that we are “done” teaching and learning? This paradigm shift might just allow for better flow in our practice instead of balking at everything new that comes along.

As I read Eric Sheninger’s column in the Huffington Post this week (thanks to @bharrisonvp) about overcoming obstacles, it occurred to me that examining the Cult of Done Manifesto might help move change forward. How does the Cult of Done Manifresto apply to teaching and learning?

1. There are three states of being. Not knowing, action and completion.

Wrap your head around this one before proceeding. There is no expert that knows everything. There are learners however that have experienced many act, reflect and revise spirals. Embrace those three phases.

2. Accept that everything is a draft. It helps to get it done.

Let’s face it, If there was one way to teach, and by extension one way to learn, don’t you think that would be adopted immediately? If some country had figured out that there was now a fool-proof way to teach and learn, wouldn’t they be under a global microscope? Every lesson and unit should be a refreshed version of the most successful previous incarnation.

3. There is no editing stage.

In teaching, editing is what prevents us from starting. Planning stages that drag on prevent us from doing. Give planning its due, then move on to the doing, the reflecting and the revising.

4. Pretending you know what you’re doing is almost the same as knowing what you are doing, so just accept that you know what you’re doing even if you don’t and do it.

I’m not advocating you teach Post-Secondary Physics with no background. Knowing a little bit about Differentiated Instruction is going to benefit some of your students. Knowing a lot about Differentiated Instruction is going to benefit many of your students. Use your professional judgement and act responsibly, but you don’t need to know everything in order to begin. It really is okay to deepen your knowledge as you move forward. Millard Fuller, the founder of Habitat for Humanity said, “It’s It’s easier to act your way into a new way of thinking than to think your way into a new way of acting.”

5. Banish procrastination. If you wait more than a week to get an idea done, abandon it.

Today there are more new ideas coming at us than ever before. Many are re-packaged ideas that are a result of applying current thinking to previous ideas. If you keep waiting to try an idea it’s not going to get done. Use your professional judgement in determining when to start, but start. Procrastination translates to never.

6. The point of being done is not to finish but to get other things done.

We’re never finished. Accept that, and move forward. Move on to the next exciting thing, and make that thing more exciting than the last exciting thing.

7. Once you’re done you can throw it away.

The absolute best thing I did as a teacher was give away my filing cabinet. It was stuffed with units and assignments that worked once. They worked during one slice of time with one group of students. I found myself re-creating lessons and units every year. Pulling out a three year old unit just didn’t work. I still keep good ideas, but not lessons or units. Most of my colleagues don’t know how I manage to do this.

8. Laugh at perfection. It’s boring and keeps you from being done.

There is no one perfect way to teach and learn. I don’t think there ever will be. The simple notion of the mythical state of teaching perfection is a major contributor to the paralysis of change. Assembly line teaching and learning would be (and is) mind-numbingly boring for all involved. Don’t even get me started on where creativity and perfection intersect.

9. People without dirty hands are wrong. Doing something makes you right.

Practitioners drive change, not theorists.

10. Failure counts as done. So do mistakes.

One of the biggest fears in teaching and learning is making mistakes. Fear of mistakes prevents us from moving forward. Don’t act recklessly, but rather transparently. Learning comes from students and teachers making mistakes.

11. Destruction is a variant of done.

Sometimes you need to just blow it up. Use your best professional judgement and be fearless.

12. If you have an idea and publish it on the internet, that counts as a ghost of done.

Make your practice public. The era of hoarding in teaching and learning is behind us. The age of collaboration is now. Tweet it from the hilltops like @Grade1. Sharing our practice makes us all better.

13. Done is the engine of more.

Act, reflect, revise. Teaching and learning is not linear, nor is it cyclical. It’s more like a spiral always moving forward.


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One Comment on “The Cult of Done”

  1. Hmmmm but not being done isn’t tidy 😉

    Act, reflect, revise – I’m sitting here reading and writing so I can complete my homework so that I am one step closer to being ‘done’ my course and therefore my degree… This is in direct opposition of how my mind works and I find myself cycling through, making connections, revisions, observations and changing my mind – in reality I want this formal part of my ‘learning’ to be done so I can continue to learn and share informally, continually, and transparently…

    I’m stuck in the middle of two realities… and your post has provided me the chance to spend a few minutes and let things swirl and whirl in a spiral waiting to be connected with the next thought… the next idea… the next conversation…


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