Thursday, January 17, 2013

We need to disagree better

This was written by Greg Miller who is a Principal of a Pre-K to grade 6 elementary school in Alberta. He tweets here and blogs here. This post was originally posted here.

by Greg Miller

We’ve all done it. The moment someone retweets our thoughts, we head straight to their profile and click the follow button. Why not? They obviously like the way we think and that’s good for our ego and self-esteem. If we follow them, and they follow us we will have one more person entrenching us in our way of thinking.

As a matter of fact, teachers in most schools tend to connect and work with colleagues who see the world through the same eyes as them. It’s so much easier to collaborate with others who are on the same page. Even when hiring, leaders look for individuals who are going to fit the best with their philosophy and way of thinking. In general, human beings don’t like to openly disagree with the ideas of others. There just seems to be too much work involved with it, and more often than not it leads to some level of conflict. Why engage in conflict when it can be avoided? If things go wrong it also may affect our standing within our school or organization. So most of us go through our careers never giving ourselves the opportunity to learn from people who might challenge our way of thinking.

It’s my opinion that this kind of thinking supports the status quo and will slow us down significantly in efforts to transform education. Not only do we need to do a better job of connecting with those who see things differently, we also need to approach conflict not as a roadblock but as working toward a solution. We must listen to the ideas of others and be prepared to change our minds. When approached in this manner, spirited collaboration can produce some of the most creative and innovative solutions and ideas.

Last week, at my opening staff gathering I shared this Ted Talk by Margaret Heffernan called Dare to Disagree. In the conversation that followed, all agreed that if our collaborative efforts are to make a real difference, we need to be more willing to disagree and bring conflict into our processes. All agreed to make this effort in the year that lies ahead.

I encourage each of you in my PLN to engage, both online and in person, with passionate and caring individuals who challenge your way of thinking every day; and even with a few that think the same way as you.


  1. Thanks for reposting this here Joe. I completely agree, and remind myself often to engage with all thoughts. I'm glad I saw this in the #etmooc stream. Karin (@kgitch)

  2. Ross Greene with his collaborative problem solving cps model shows the way.First focus on the CONCERNS of the other party , then share your concerns, define the problem and then share solutions that address the concerns.

    What happens is that people present their concerns in terms of solutions , so what follows is the ' dueling of solutions ' instead of cps


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