This week I learned that semantics can be a surprisingly insurmountable barrier to positive community action. In fact, it can prevent really, really, really great things from happening. Apparently, even things that we all agree are good and needed can get derailed by a “label.”
Despite the growing popularity of the work being done on school “branding” by Joe Sanfelippo and Tony Sinanis, this week I discovered that the term has a deeply negative connotation for some.
As I was comfortably laid back following #edchat with the rest of the committed lead lurkers, Heather Rocco @heatherrocco dropped a tweet bomb that grabbed me by the collar and forced my hands to the keyboard.
Wow, 36 people shared this sentiment (many more, I am sure). I tried to stay out of this one, especially after someone posted that when chat topics involve conflict, the level of participation significantly declines. My head said shut up, Smith, but my fingers kept crawling to the keys like a thirsty man to a well, so, foolishly, I jumped in.
In the end I thought the discussion that followed was riveting and the lessons learned invaluable.
Lesson one: From Heather Rocco @heatherrocco, @LoringandSmith and William Chamberlain @wmchamberlain, I learned that for some, labels are non-negotiable and inseparable from meaning. For those who feel this way, terms may have a fixed and immutable definition.
Lesson two: From Steven Issacs @mr_isaacs, @JoeSanfelippo and @TonySinanas, I learned a little more about how “bridge builders” work in our wired social ecosystem. They each represented their truth, but looked to understand both sides and find common ground.
In a world that increasingly thrives on dividing us into white hats and black hats, good witches and bad witches, those who are for us and those who are against us, it was encouraging to see what authenticity, transparency and pushing back respectfully looks like. All views were represented and as far as I could tell no one said, “Meet me outside afterschool and we’ll settle this.”
This #edchat was a master class in navigating diversity of opinion. On the way out, William shared how he deals with semantic differences. "I always try to get us to define terms. It's like hearding cats though :)" Clearly, if doing great things requires group action, sometimes we just have to agree to disagree on the minor points. so we can keep moving forward on the major points.
Picked up some nice gems in this Edchat, though it left me with one perplexing question: I’m wondering what it means that for three out of the last four weeks the most important things I’ve learned were somehow connected to William Chamberlain, Tony Sinanis and Joe Sanfelippo. Are they simply deep wells of great wisdom? Am I just a rabid fan mindlessly following their brands of thought? Do I have father issues? To be continued…