Tipping Point

“When people are ready to, they change. They never do it before then, and sometimes they die before they get around to it. You can’t make them change if they don’t want to, just like when they do want to, you can’t stop them.

– Andy Warhol

I remember when I read the newspaper in the morning.

I can remember when only the nerdy kids knew what to do with computers.

I can remember a time when I thought cell phones were pretentious and social media seemed like a distraction.

I used to think long division was an important skill and that using graphing calculators was akin to cheating.

I remember when gay couples couldn’t walk down the street holding hands.

If they were still alive, my parents could tell me about the time before color television, before cable, before plastic, before calculators, before interracial marriage.

All of this, which seemed so normal at the time, has changed.  How many of us can imagine living without a computer, a cell phone, and instant access to information?  How many math teachers could teach now without a graphing calculator?  People are free to love who they love, and even in the U.S., get married (we still have a long way to go on this one).  In each of these cases there was some tipping point, a point where the rest of the world just got on board with change, and embraced the new normal.

It wasn’t that long ago when I said “I don’t do twitter. I don’t have time for it.”

I tried twitter a few years ago, but didn’t get it.  It was a time-suck; just another social media site; I have facebook and that’s enough.  And then the invitation: “How about we have lunch together next Tuesday and I’ll show you how it works?” Okay, why not, I can spare 30 minutes to see if it’s worthwhile.  Thanks to Tricia Friedman for being my tipping point.  She suggested amazing, innovative educators for me to follow, still is.  She showed me how to research using hashtags.  She even got me to start blogging.  She’s encouraged me every step of the way.  I’ve found great ideas to upgrade my practice.  Call me grateful.  It has changed everything and it’s only been a few weeks.

“I don’t do twitter. I don’t have time for it.”  It’s a pretty common refrain.  George Couros writes about this in his blog post from May 25 and says it’s time to restate the problem.  Is it really about time?  Or are you struggling with finding its value?  Are you afraid?  He suggests asking these questions instead:

  1. How will my students benefit from this practice?
  2. I am not seeing the relevance of this for teaching and learning…could you give me specifics of how this would impact my practice?
  3. How would you suggest incorporating what you are suggesting into my position?
  4. What has been the biggest benefits for your own practice?
  5. If I was to do this, what would it replace that I am doing now?

I found my tipping point by changing my framework from a time thing to a value thing, and in the process have found a new community.  I’m especially  enjoying the conversations I’m now having at work with those who have found their tipping point and those on the brink.  I’m learning so much and realizing that we all have so much to offer not only in terms of ideas, but also in terms of support.  We are all amateurs, and we’re all in this together.

“The key to change… is to let go of fear.”

– Rosanne Cash

I know fear kept me from wanting to change, but letting go and embracing my inner amateur has opened up a whole new world.  It’s changing the conversations with my students.  It’s making me think about teaching in a whole new way.  I’m seeing what true collaboration is.  I’m loving my conversations with Cate Jarvis about what mentoring and support is.  I understand now, John Dalesio, why ATLs matter.  I get your passions, Vicky Wasner.  I appreciate your willingness to try something new, Brad Bond.  I want more of it, and I want to bring more colleagues on board and be their tipping point.

What moments in your life or career have been tipping points?

What did it take to get you on twitter?  What will it take to get you on twitter?

How will you help others to make the leap?

Thank you Ross Griff and Creative Commons for the lovely photo.


4 thoughts on “Tipping Point

  1. Valerie,
    Your kindness is much appreciated.

    When I first started teaching, it was in an inner city school in Paterson, NJ. I had 55 12th graders in each of my high school classes. I was 22 years old, and I had no idea what I was doing. My students lived in a world I knew little about. Many of my female students were already mothers, or about to become so. I set out to teach there (this is so cliche and cheesy) in part because of the way that Joe Carter’s legacy was depicted in the film “Lean on Me” http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0097722/

    The reality was so much more nuanced and complicated than any movie could reveal. My biggest asset back then was my love for planning lessons—every high school teacher knows this: kids read right through you when your lessons are ill-planned. They know right away when you’ve done YOUR homework, and you’ve put time into what they are doing with you. For me, that’s always been a ‘tipping point’ lesson:

    It isn’t about being some charismatic larger than life made for the big screen character.

    It isn’t about getting students to ‘like you.’

    It isn’t about intimidation, or demanding students understand ‘there will be consequences.’

    No, it is about respecting students enough to put in those many (many) added hours and seeing your ideas through their eyes, and designing accordingly.

    Because I see myself as a designer of learning experiences, I love having access to hundreds of other designers. When I’m on Twitter, I’m recruiting ideas, I’m sifting though notions. Many of them might remain dormant, many of them might not come to fruition for months. But when I’m in that space, I’m there because my students deserve to have a teacher willing to go that extra mile. Students deserve to have access to a teacher willing to use the connections we have so much access to.

    Professional basketball coaches watch hundreds of hours of game footage in planning, and plotting strategy. The teacher’s equivalent today is connecting via Twitter. And while it isn’t about ‘winning,’ it is about respecting my students–and at the core of that respect is the exact kind of kindness that you have at the core of this post, Valerie.
    Thank you for posting this,


  2. The tipping point for me… wasn’t so much a point as rising tide. I suppose I have been an ‘early adopter’ in some cases (my first snowboard was actually a skateboard with little skis that strapped to the wheels). I recall a Twitter hashtag being and a running feed of the tweets being used several years ago at an ISZL PD session. It was basically Tricia, Phil and John D. commenting among themselves and it seemed so unnecessary. I was not impressed. We were all in the room together so I didn’t really see the point of the sideline commentary. It worked for them but they are all very intelligent and insightful educators. They had things to add to the conversation. I would have most likely made some snarky comment relating to ‘how time flies… or let’s put the PDA back into PD’.

    But having spent the last 6 months re-envisioning my life after ISZL and trying to visualize better teaching and what it is that I want my professional life to be like, I rekindled a flame. I want more. I want to inspire and be inspired. I want to take chances and grow and I want to be a part of a crowd of teachers striving for the same. I was prepared to look elsewhere but I was sensing the tide surging around ISZL and took few strokes to paddle into that wave by marching up to Valerie Koch and saying, “I want to play”. I wish I could find the photo that trust me forward, it was Cate, Phil, John, Tricia… Valerie sitting in a darkened Pavillions room blogging, collaborating, innovating, creating… whatever. I thought to myself, ‘These are my colleagues/friends together dreaming and making their dreams manifest… I want to play”. I don’t know what Valerie thought when I said those words to here but I was riding the wave. I had reached the ‘Tipping Point.


    1. Dear Brad,

      I’m so happy you’ve arrived. It was much the same for me and now I can’t stop thinking about it. Let’s paddle this boat together. Not sure where it’s going, but I I think we’ll be picking up a lot of passengers along the way.

      Kind regards,


  3. I have nothing to add but I love this post. You are a wordsmith and I really enjoyed reading this. I have a great image of a crazy paddle boat with a bunch of nutters experimenting away! If I am honest the flow of information on Twitter still freaks me out. Someone (I can not remember who) suggested it should be looked at as a river you poke your toes in, rather than one you need to swim in. This simple sentence was perfect for me as it gave me the option to turn it off, to not read every tweet to realise I will miss stuff but that’s OK as I will find loads of other stuff as well. So I am freaking out less…..well most the time 😀


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