learning geography

A Panacea for Public Education – Two Simple Ways to Promote Communication and Solutions-Based Thinking

Do you believe public education is under attack like no other time in history? Anyone who has been in education for decades has seen their share of controversies and fraught episodes, but I’ve been curious to know how our current challenges compare.

Though I am only going into my twenty-fourth year in education, my mom was in education for 30 years prior to me starting, and she believes right now is among the most controversial. After multiple conversations with current and retired educators across the country, I can say with some certainty that she is right. And it may get worse before it gets better.

Be Solutions-Oriented – Stop Beating the Horse!

stopping the dominos

Have you found like me that Americans have a fascination with discussing problems, over, and over, and over, again? The age old idiom of beating a dead horse to make it go faster comes to mind. When a person simply tries to define a problem ad nauseum without ever presenting a solution, it isn’t going to get us any closer to getting past it.

This not-so-eloquent metaphor exquisitely illustrates how many people in society deal with problems. In Denny McLaughlin’s High Trust Psychology, it says, “The sooner you can ‘go to a solution,’ the healthier you are as a person.”


This hit me hard when I first heard about it. I fell into this category many times in my career and life. Unfortunately, too many times educators sit around a teacher’s lounge and discuss all the problems in education – complaining about everything from students, to parents, to administration, to the entire community. And sometimes they don’t stop there.

And even if it isn’t a staff-wide tendency stemming from problematic school culture, we all have at least one negative nelly in the building that continually rehashes problems without ever presenting plausible solutions. 

As unproductive as those conversations are, I still come away with a sense of how our society has more critics of public education than ever before. And many of those critics are making comments, coming to school board meetings, using their voting rights, and more to bring up these problems. You may know some of these people in your own community. They are disrupting public education under the guise of parental control, local control, and doing what’s right for students. They are drama problem seekers! 

“Don’t get me wrong, I am all about public participation and engagement in education. In fact, I promote it continually in my community. But to get on to a school board or hold a position of power within the state in order to disrupt and create drama without understanding the underlying problems – it’s just pouring fuel on the fire!”

What if all this time spent creating drama and exacerbating the problem, was put into finding a solution?

As a society, and especially in our schools, we must stop putting so much time into the problem. Let’s put a majority of our time into solution-based conversations. When we do so, the healthier our students, schools, and community will be – both now and in the future!

Here’s an experiment for you…track the time in minutes you spend on problems in your life. Then track the time spent finding solutions.  Which one is greater; where is most of your time being spent?    

Drop the List of Grievances That Do Nothing but Promote Division


How do we curb people from seeking drama and being judgmental? We must encourage them to “drop the list.”

‘What list?,’ you ask?

“Regrettably, we all have a “list” of gripes about somebody or something that we tend to revisit. This is an unproductive series of complaints, problems, or weaknesses that play into how we judge someone or something.”

Admittedly, I have had lists of my own in the past… please note that these are personal to me.

It is astonishing to me how much drama and judgement is reinforced by the list of gripes we recycle over and over again. I believe this is one of the biggest problems going on in the world. Progress is stifled by the things we keep on our lists.

Over my 23 years as a teacher and educational leader, I have had a list of things I felt were  wrong with the school system and would bash certain aspects of public education openly. I outwardly stood against the teacher tenure process, lack of federal and state funding, and many other controversial topics that have come to the doorstep of schools. I was letting these issues divide me from my peers, judging other people who had different views, sometimes even taking it into the public square by writing articles opining about those opposing views.

What I realized, though, is that I wasn’t actually arriving at any solutions. I was fighting for the sake of the fight, and that ended up causing more problems for the school community. And more problems for myself too.

“Rehashing our list of grievances does nothing but promote tribalism and division. These lists contain reasons to cast judgment. They do nothing to promote communication, and only serve to put up barriers that make problems worse… whether it’s the charter school vs public school debate, democrats vs republicans… or the Hatfield’s vs the McCoy’s!”

This may sound simplistic, but sometimes solutions to the most difficult problems are right in front of us. We all intuitively understand that the solution to any problem lies in our ability to have open dialogue and find common ground – so dropping the list of things that reinforce division is the obvious place to start down the path toward solving problems.

If you could move past your list of complaints faster and go straight to open communication and a solutions-oriented mindset, how would this affect your world? How would this affect everyone in your community? How would this affect the entire world?

We are all human. We have been blessed with the ability to implement these two solutions, so the duty falls to us to do so wherever we go and with whatever we do.

“Be solution-based and drop your lists!”

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