The Leaning Tower of…Progress: Three Steps to Moving Forward Through Challenge

The Leaning Tower of…Progress.

You have seen it all over the news and internet—even in the New York Times and other national news. It is Dallas, Texas’ own Leaning Tower. An old building where they simply were carrying out a typical demolition in a big city but the building still stands. People have taken the liberty of posting humorous photos in front it. People have joked about it. I joked about it. You see, there was a plan. A plan to demolish it, but it would not go down without a fight. I even laughed and said “I see my kindergarten niece and her classmates formulated the process to bring the building down.” But…there was a plan. It just did not go as anyone thought. They are still trying to bring that bad boy down—one chunk at time. Inevitably, somehow, it will come down (the designers/engineers of the building are somewhere laughing hysterically–because they had a solid, effective design).

You may or may not agree with the demolition company’s approach, however, whether in education or in life, plans are established, but it does not mean the outcome will be pristine and without obstacles. Like the Leaning Tower, what can we do to move forward with and in progress? “Lean in” and let’s talk.

  1. Recognize the issue for what it is—sometimes a complex web of challenges.

It is easy to blame a challenge on poor planning, the execution, the executor, or lack thereof. Yes, we are always to examine ourselves first and foremost. Let’s also stay humble—it could be us (laugh). However, when the problem is long, complex, and deep, there are a myriad of factors. I am in no way a demolition expert nor have I done extensive research on the topic, but jokes aside, I presume the company who was hired to complete the demolition examined the structure, planned, set up everything, and did what they were supposed to do. That building just did not come down. Sources say the elevator shaft is one factor of hinderance. There are other variables at play as well.

Regardless, what is the company doing? Taking the structure down as much as they can while also keeping in mind public safety and compliance. Panicking will not help. Blaming will not help. Being negative and pointing out every little “perceived” flaw will not help. It does not mean the company has not had legitimate demolition victories in the past. It certainly doesn’t mean they won’t have significant victories throughout the company’s future. They have simply stumbled into a unique challenge for this period in time. Yes, there is urgency but stay calm, and just get the job done ethically for the benefit of all.

2. Get it—a piece at a time.

Rome was not built in a day. Neither is a successful outcome. Have you heard the phrase “you see my glory but have you seen the pain and long road that got me here?” Success is rarely a perfect line or an astonishing upward trend. Success is a process of learning, growing, and overcoming a piece at a time. As an educator, your students are not going to pass every assessment overnight. I have literally seen great teachers/colleagues struggle with students all school year and on the last assessment of the year, ROCK it. It took piece by piece, planning by planning, implementing programs, building intrinsic and extrinsic motivation, constant restructures, sincere support, home support (above all) and more to get these students where they were supposed to be. A while observing many factors. Numbers don’t lie but success is rarely only quantitative—it’s qualitative as well. I like to call it the Power Blend.

For example, on the show My 600 lb Life, a mother was fighting for her life. Not only was this amazing soul trapped in her bedroom with her beautiful daughters serving her night and day, it bothered her. She sought help. As my sister in law and I watched the show, we were awestruck at the negligence the medical staff and support team exhibited. The doctors were so focused on the scale number, they did not see her as a whole person nor address the root of her weight issues—years prior, her 5 year old child was tragically killed while she was away in Haiti seeing family. This woman was grieving out of her mind and the way she soothed herself was through eating. Even the counselor they appointed to her could not see what was really going on. Needless to say, they neglectfully approved her, and she had the weight loss surgery. Due to her not being able to control her overeating due to the underlying emotional issues including grieving, and while disobeying commands to not overeat with her new, reduced stomach pouch, she literally ate herself to death. She left behind several courageous daughters. What should have been a victorious ending to the show turned out to be footage of her funeral. The Power Blend was not executed for this precious woman to any extent. As the ending credits for the show rolled, my sister in law and I looked at each other speechless.

3. Look forward and onward.

If the demolition company looked at every criticism of their approach (which I don’t necessarily agree with but hey, I do admire their tenacity, and what do I know about demolition?), they would never get the job done. They just keep hitting at it day by day keeping their sights and eyes on the end goal, working to knock that tower DOWN. You may have a goal for your students to knock a test out of the water, to become a stronger class by April or May or a personal goal for you (teaching is what we do, it is not the whole of our identity). Keep your eyes focused on your students and/or your goal. Note: not all criticism is bad. People who are trustworthy and truly care are simply trying to help.

Looking at the complexity of challenges, attacking the challenge a piece at a time, and looking forward and working towards the end result are lessons we can all learn from the Leaning Tower of Progress—oops, I mean Dallas. Some say the endurance and determination of this entire ordeal really reveals the spirit of Dallas. I truly hope so. And I hope it reveals those characteristics in your spirit too.

Kia 😉

Copyright 2020 The Educator’s Light

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