Synopsis of this Post

  • The status quo may seem reasonable but in reality is just another bad habit that should be confronted.
  • We often run with our individual thoughts about our role in a fashion that, on the face of it, seems reasonable but it’s actually hurting us and our ability to learn and grow.
  • If we are to change the status quo then often we need to look at ourselves first. 



Last week David posted an excellent blog on the need to be unreasonable.


I’ve got to be honest, I’m struggling with David’s piece…not because I don’t believe in what he has to say but more because I’ve spent 30 years in education being the opposite of what he proposed. I’ve built a career on being reasonable.


And also, because reasonableness and unreasonableness, like beauty, are invariably in the eye of the beholder. My reasonableness can easily be seen as unreasonableness by someone else and frequently this is the case. However, someone else’s opinion about whether you are being reasonable or unreasonable often pales in comparison to your own beliefs about whether you are reasonable or unreasonable. The battle where real change will be made begins with how you treat yourself.


So therein lies my point. I want to use my unreasonableness to change my world.


A few years ago, I found myself on a tramp in the mountains above Lake Ohau in the South Island of New Zealand. The walk into the hut looked very simple, just following a river bed. Unusually for my tramping partner and I, we didn’t have a map. This will seem particularly unreasonable to others, but to us it seemed reasonable. On Google Earth it had looked simple. 


Follow the river.


And so we did. For a long time. By the time we got to the hut it was well after dark. To be honest we only found the hut by luck as a light was shining outwards through the window.


And although this is an example of unreasonably poor planning, it’s not my point. By the time I had made it to the hut I was literally a nervous wreck.


I’d spent 6 hours in the wilderness, trudging up a river bed through the snow, doing what I consider as being very reasonable.


Deep in thought for 6 hours I ruminated over a problem I was having at school. Just one problem. To be fair, it was a pretty serious problem regarding one of my teachers. If I was thinking logically I would never have started thinking about the problem. I was never ever going to resolve this anywhere but at school, during term time, and with the teacher. But over and over again I attacked the issue. I picked at it like an open sore. The mountains soared around me, but I found new depths in my thinking during those hours. Physically I was spent when I made it to the hut, but it was my mental state that was worse. My whole tramping weekend became darkened by this rumination. For all intents and purposes I might as well have stayed home.


I didn’t take in much of the beauty of the mountains. I didn’t stop to enjoy the fresh air or the excitement of the trip. My rumination closed in around me like a dark cape and that’s where it locked itself to me. The school problem, one problem only, doing what I thought was reasonable, gnawed away at me. It became a miserable time that was the straw (albeit a heavy one) that broke the camel’s back. It led to a diagnosis of depression and a period of my life on antidepressant medication.


Reasonably, in my eyes, I have sadly continued this pattern. Always on weekends and on holidays, I’ve let school/work problems take roost during idle times. I’ve allowed this. I’ve made this a habit and a pattern and because of this, I’ve secured this thought process in concrete all in the name of reasonableness.


My battle then with what is reasonable and what is unreasonable is a battle with myself. It’s not a call to arms against the Ministry of Education or against those children or families who routinely push my buttons and attempt to walk all over me. No, it’s a battle within which I have to beat first.


As a principal, school plays a huge part in my life. But it’s not the only thing in my life, and it isn’t the most important thing in my life. It plays a huge part in who I am as a person, but it’s not the most important part of who I am as a person. To make this a concrete part of my being I need to be unreasonable with myself, and that’s where the wins will be. 


As George Bernard Shaw said, “The reasonable man adapts himself to the world: the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore, all progress depends on the unreasonable man.” 


My progress, and ultimately the sustainability and longevity of my role as a principal, now depends on me being unreasonable. If I am going to break the status quo then I need to be unreasonable with myself. That means finding ways to avoid thinking about school when I don’t need to. Distraction activities are useful for this, but it takes practice and a determined mind to a:) know when your mind has reverted to a school problem and, b:) guide yourself back to just living (and enjoying) the moment. 


So in a quirky sense, to be reasonable in my own individual well-being I actually need to start acting unreasonably!



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