When Reshan and I were working on the cover for our next book (in stores everywhere on May 7!), we showed it to some friends and family members. One of them looked at it and puckered her face a bit — like she had just eaten something a little sour.
“It’s messing with my brain,” she said. “There’s the title, about being clear, and that’s clear. But the cover itself is a little messy. Shouldn’t it be more . . . clear?”
“Exactly!” We replied.
Teachers, as part of their profession, routinely walk into situations where they have to enact understanding in others. Making themselves clear is, therefore, a top priority.
But teaching professionals, and teacher coaches, have changed their view of what that looks like.
It used to be considered perfectly appropriate for a teacher to walk into a classroom and lecture for an extended period of time. Could that be done in a clear way? Absolutely. But, is that the best way to make one’s self clear? We don’t think so.
Lecturing, even with a good slide deck, doesn’t take into account what’s happening for the recipients of the lecture. The recipients (or audience members) could be daydreaming, could be multitasking, could be asleep, or could be writing down or recording every word that’s being said yet understanding none of the larger significances.
There’s a paradox at play: to make one’s self clear, as a teacher, sometimes you have to lead others through a path that appears to be, or is, messy. Sometimes you have to lead people through activities that might confuse an onlooker. And yet, with these intentional activities, you are clearing out space for the co-construction of meaning. You are allowing understanding to evolve and sharpen. You are making your message clearer, making yourself clearer, in the minds of your students.
Made clear, through messy means, your message will be implanted in the minds of your audience. More important, your message will belong to your audience.
Which brings us back to our friend’s (sour faced) reaction to our book’s cover. We loved the feedback; it told us we were right on target.
With our cover, we intentionally tried to create some cognitive dissonance. It’s an expressive artifact, celebrating the “messy to be clear” paradox. The path to understanding is not always clear. It must be made so. That takes time, intention, inventiveness; that takes teaching.
The website for our book (about how teaching can serve as a resource for businesses of all shapes and sizes) is here. It’s still pretty new, but we’d love to keep you updated and involved as we work toward our launch, so please consider signing up for our newsletter.
Steve & Reshan