Don’t cut off noses and hand out roses

“There is no point in cutting off a person's nose and then giving them a rose to smell.” Indian proverb

As we consider change and helping others change, it is important to remember that WHAT we say is important but often HOW we say it is more important.

I saw that this week as I felt myself getting upset while discussing what types of things the teachers at our school need to learn at an upcoming class. I've lived and breathed and researched and studied for this moment and when asked, quickly typed up a two page list of simple ways for teachers to integrate technology into their classroom, while understanding that they are often beginners and only have one or two computers in their rooms.

My time had come! Oh no, it didn't!

It didn't matter.

It didn't matter that “I'm the cool cat teacher” (ha ha) or that “I cohost Wow2” or the countless hours spent researching and studying how to effectively implement technology in the classroom. The presentations, the awards, all of the things that I had done simply didn't matter.

All that mattered was my ability to keep calm and express in the simplest terms possible the value of these tools.

My ability to treat the person who has all of the decision making authority as an equal with an equally valid viewpoint (although it may not be as well informed.)

An ability to keep focused and express myself without using the terminology this person had already written off as irrelevant like blog, wiki, podcast, etc.

It simply did not matter except that I treated her with respect, dignity, and when given the chance that I expressed myself as kindly and simply as possible.

It took an hour. And even then I felt insufficient.

Still, the other teachers have to request what they want to learn. (Despite my objections that often we don't KNOW what we need to learn.)

And I too have to sit through this workshop (which really rankles me a bit but I must adjust my attitude and know I can learn … thankfully, the workshop is with Dr. Shepherd so I know I'll learn some great things.)

And this is the struggle all of us face.
The fact that online credentials and credence don't matter a hill of beans in our own back yard.

And in my back yard I'm often considered that little geeky girl that I was in middle school and will remain to be. Often it means that they leave me out because they don't realize that I can help beginners learn. (My problem is not enough time, not lack of ability.)

So, frustration aside… it comes back to kindness, decency, and a whole lot of patience.

Hotheads don't change anything but their own blood pressure! So, remember, this week, when you're ready to “change the world” that it often starts with your own attitude and willingness to submit yourself to the authorities that be who, although they may not know as much as you, are still your authority.

You can do this.
You can promote change. However, promoting positive change for the good of our students has never been easy and is only attempted by the valiant souls who are truly willing to sacrifice themselves, their own egos, and often their own aspirations to help progress.

If teaching is the most noble calling on earth, then teachers who step outside their classroom and kindly, patiently, advocate change for everyone are saints. It is easy to cocoon in the classroom, but if you can help others, then you should do it!

Make a difference where you are…

and don't cut off noses and hand out roses!

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Vicki Davis

Vicki Davis

Vicki Davis is a full-time classroom teacher and IT Director in Georgia, USA. She is Mom of three, wife of one, and loves talking about the wise, transformational use of technology for teaching and doing good in the world. She hosts the 10 Minute Teacher Podcast which interviews teachers around the world about remarkable classroom practices to inspire and help teachers. Vicki focuses on what unites us -- a quest for truly remarkable life-changing teaching and learning. The goal of her work is to provide actionable, encouraging, relevant ideas for teachers that are grounded in the truth and shared with love. Vicki has been teaching since 2002 and blogging since 2005. Vicki has spoken around the world to inspire and help teachers reach their students. She is passionate about helping every child find purpose, passion, and meaning in life with a lifelong commitment to the joy and responsibility of learning. If you talk to Vicki for very long, she will encourage you to "Relate to Educate" or "innovate like a turtle" or to be "a remarkable teacher." She loves to talk to teachers who love their students and are trying to do their best. Twitter is her favorite place to share and she loves to make homemade sourdough bread and cinnamon rolls and enjoys running half marathons with her sisters. You can usually find her laughing with her students or digging into a book.

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Lisa Parisi February 10, 2008 - 3:49 pm

Once again, Vicki, you say it so eloquently. It is hard not to charge forward, demanding change, expecting others to follow willingly in our footsteps. Kindness, patience, breaking things down into simple steps..all are important to remember.

Kate Olson February 10, 2008 - 4:07 pm

Vicki –
This is just oh so true. I found myself in the same position just this week and know I’ll be feeling the same in the future. I actually tweeted from a moodle workshop about how I gain respect and am seen as helpful/intelligent in my online network, but once it’s f2f or “in my own backyard” i’m completely written off b/c I don’t have my Masters or am not in the IT dept or am not an administrator, or most importantly b/c I’m a “new” (although non-traditional) teacher. No one in my “real” network wants to know about my online network or my place there. I’m not sure why. I love the way you wrote this – it really resonates with me. I’m the geeky girl I was in middle school as well…….

diane February 10, 2008 - 4:30 pm


I understand and acknowledge the truth of what you’re saying, but it’s wearing me down.


diane February 10, 2008 - 5:04 pm


I’m retiring in a year (to work more online).

I’m a teacher/librarian with an undergraduate degree in English.

I have never been considered -or considered myself- a “geek” (not that I consider that derogatory, quite the opposite!)

If I can learn so much technology in ONE YEAR, why can’t the rest of our staff?

I’m tired of making excuses for people who refuse to learn.


Jeff Lewis February 10, 2008 - 5:16 pm

Hail to the Geeks! I am proudly a part of this group too. Thanks for the great post, it really resonated with me as well.

Rodd Lucier February 10, 2008 - 6:34 pm

The pace of change may cause us to believe our message is so urgent that it must be presented passionately and immediately.

Your wisdom in recognizing the importance of delivering a tempered message may not yield immediate change, but it is even less likely to be met with totally closed minds (and doors!).

Langwitches February 10, 2008 - 7:43 pm

Thank you for this post. Needed it…badly. “Hotheads don’t change anything but their own blood pressure!” is the quote that resonated with me. Thanks for reminding me. I have downloaded Paul McCartney last week to my iPod and am listening “Let it be” to and from my way to work. :)

mstina February 10, 2008 - 4:39 pm

Vicki, well said. In other words, remember to be gracious. It’s difficult. I was told recently that my own efforts in advancing tech. integration were being overshadowed by conflicts with coworkers. Oftentimes the conflicts arise from their lack of understanding and impatience in wanting things fixed. It’s a constant struggle. I reminded myself this past week to “give them the pickle.” I like your phrase better!

Vicki A. Davis February 10, 2008 - 4:53 pm

@lisa — And yet, it is so hard to remember. It is so easy to be frustrated as the comments from everyone show. But we must leave in RL! (real life) and make change in our corner of the world.

@kate – That will change. I s
coolcatte…peak from experience. My strategy has long been “take them as far as they want to go and then back off” and then just be kind. Your chance WILL come. Just remember that seasoned teachers have seen a lot of excited new comers come and go, once they know you’re around for good, you’ll earn their respect.

@diane — That is why we go back into the blogosphere — to regenerate and recoup — and refocus. I have to have this encouragement (and that of my time alone with the Lord ) or I simply cannot make it. It is hard.

@mstina – Getting things “fixed” is part of the problem when it is them that is causing the problem. (a la “the forgotten password”). Patience, persistence and remembering that you cannot do it all are important. Help who you can, when you can, with a smile, and then document document document. That is what I had to do to finally get some more money to help me with tech support on campus.

Karyn Romeis February 10, 2008 - 11:03 pm

Well, well, “geeky girl”, we have more in common than I realised. What was that about a prophet not being honoured in his own home?

However, I will be bold and disagree with your husband on this occasion. We love change. We change our hairstyles, try a different recipe or a different restaurant, try out that new (insert product name here) we’ve seen advertised on telly, buy new clothes, change jobs, get new cars, switch the furniture around, redecorate the bedroom or the living room, landscape the garden, get yet another pair of new shoes, a new ipod, a new phone, a new laptop.

We love it.

What we don’t like is not having a choice in the matter. We don’t like having change foisted on us. When we are the agents of change we need to remind ourselves of this. The people we’re trying to win around are not anti-change, they’re anti the idea of “being done to” and we can all relate to that.

I say this as if I’ve got it sussed. I don’t. And I’m still guilty of changing my own blodd pressure more than anything else.

You keep plugging away – in this space, we reckon you rock!

Langwitches February 11, 2008 - 12:58 am

Change is my middle name. I have NEVER lived longer than 3 years in one place (since birth). So I guess it is in my blood. Once the third year approaches, I get restless… Have to move on…

Have to remember “It does not matter how slow you go so long as you do not stop.”
Wisdom of Confucius

blogsmith February 11, 2008 - 2:06 am

This comment has been removed by the author.

Vicki A. Davis February 10, 2008 - 10:41 pm

@diane – I don’t make any excuse for those who don’t wish to learn except to say that it is human nature to fight change! My husband says “Only babies like a change and even then, they cry the whole time!”

It takes visionary people to help spark change. I am convinced that when we behave like I’ve seen some technologists act, “like angry kids not being given a turn at the playground” that people are able to discount our message because it is wrapped in a cantankerous body. If someone doesn’t follow the things I suggest, let it be because they refuse to change, not because I am unkind.

I applaud you for your leadership and really, you are the antidote to those who don’t want to change. At your tenure, you’ve earned the right not to take their excuses and can call them on it. A turning point for our school was when our curriculum director stood up in a staff meeting last year and said, “This year, I’m going to learn to blog!” You probably have more opportunity to lead than anyone on your campus because you’ve earned the right. Use it and don’t take excuses. I’m a 5 year teacher and it takes a 30 year teacher to tell another 30 year teacher that they need to change!

(You can still be kind, though, as I’m sure you are.)

@jeff – Yes! I used to not like the term, but one day I woke up and realized, that is who I am and I’m proud of it and set myself to be a geek that doesn’t fit the stereotype. Some use the name to minimize me, I use it as a strength.

@rodd – I would love to plaster your wise words on the door of every technology implementation person and IT director. We must still speak and not give up, however, unkindness has always closed doors and caused wars.

@langwitches — I’m going to get “let it be” for my ipod right now! What a great song and I need it too.

I needed this post as much as all of you as a reminder to myself to relax and continue to be kind. I was so upset when this happened (and still am.) Who knows what will be held in the workshop, I am thankful that we’ve got a great workshop leader that will take us a little past the comfort zone of the person who is writing the curriculum.

Vicki A. Davis February 10, 2008 - 11:05 pm

@karen — I love change but perhaps I’m an exception (as are you!) I love to rearrange furniture, etc. And you’re right, we want to be a part of the changes that happen and don’t like being “done to.”

I always tell my students that they have two choices as it relates to change to either be the “victim” or the “victor” that is about it. You can be a part of change or it most certainly, in the end, will be done to you and be very unpleasant!

Andrea Hernandez February 11, 2008 - 4:09 am

This is just the best post ever! SO TRUE! Every word. I am not a hothead but too hyper and over-excited for change to come and that doesn’t go over well either. People see it as critical of them (which I guess, in a way it is) rather than helpful. I try to center myself and take a DEEP breath before working w/other teachers at my school. And to remember that I can always learn from EVERYONE!

brachsmith February 11, 2008 - 2:35 am

This is an unbelievable post in the fact that I feel like you have written EXACTLY how I think and feel! I JUST sent an email for a sit down with administration regarding a technology survey that the IT dept just sent out. I sent the email before I read this post and then just about fell on the floor thinking that our situations mirror each other almost to the letter. Thank you for the post and thank you for being a role model for your network and thank you for speaking my thoughts so clearly.

Downes February 11, 2008 - 11:46 am

> willingness to submit yourself to the authorities that be

I don’t agree with this.

It is one thing to recognize a reality and to deal with that. I have not problem with that. Sometimes you have to negotiate your way through a turn.

But I don’t think people should every “submit themselves” to others. People should deal with each other with an attitude of equality and empowerment.

You say, in justification for your position, that “Hotheads don’t change anything.” This is mostly false. In fact, most change has been wrought by ‘hotheads’ of one sort or another.

Gladys Baya February 11, 2008 - 12:43 pm

Dear Vicki,
I love it when you say “Help who you can, when you can, with a smile, and then document document document.” I’ve decide I am doing what I’m doing for my own benefit and that of my learners, and I’m offering to share with whoever is interested in giving new technologies a try.
I guess I’ve been really lucky, for in nearly 10 years at least I’ve succeeded at keeping in touch with several teachers sharing this spirit!

I know you’ve been told so many times, bu… great blog (I’m definitely subscribing!).


Rash Kath February 11, 2008 - 1:08 pm

Hi! Vicki
It is rightly said, when you want to move a mountain, there is a lot of noise , debris here and there…lot more. So, stay cool and keep moving ahead by achieving steps one by one.
God bless!
Keep on sharing good work.

Techno Constructivist February 11, 2008 - 7:56 pm

I see this issue…this struggle…not so much as a struggle against learning new technologies but more as a revolt against something more fundamental. The introduction of a new technology, no matter what it is, necessitates an adaptation or a change in how we do things that are effected by its integration. In our case this is a change in teaching or a change in pedagogy. It is real difficult for a teacher who has a behaviorist doctrine engrained into thier practice to see the value of much of what is new out there. It just doesn’t mesh with their style and in most cases becomes a destraction in the classroom. Time and again Seymore Pappert’s call for technology to be adopted through a lens of constructivism (or rather constructionism) seems to ring true as a formula for successful integration of technology for learning. I often…no, I daily see the same aversion from many teachers to new technologies that you describe but if you dig deep I am sure you will find it is not the technology that is the problem. It is a stubborness to change how one teaches. It is a fight against giving more control to students to create, manipulate, anlyze, and construct their own meanings. The movement toward constructivism and the 21st Century goals is gaining momentum and is definitely the future of our profession. The backlash many of us tech integrationists face feels and looks a lot like the backlash given by a political party that is behind in the polls. When things change or when change is eminent, there always seems to be a backlash or negative PR campaign against the angents of change. In politics, going negative only seems to help those who are behind. Unfortunately, going negative often has undesireable consequences for those whose campaigns the negativity is aimed at.

Terri Schulz February 12, 2008 - 12:18 am

Listen, I really appreciate you putting this out on the table. I coordinate the computer department, am in a training position too, and I am working on learning so much more (the learning never ends if we care) about web 2.0 technology, so I can share it with my community. So, your words of patience and stick-to-it-ness really do make a difference. I am a new blogger, with a new wiki. I am trying to follow your blog, and I attempted one of the web 2.0 online chats two weeks ago (connection kept going out, but I will try again). You are right- making a difference in your own backyard can be the most challenging place to make a dent, but you have reached other teachers like me from Nashville, Tennessee, and countless others have referenced your name when asked how to learn more about the latest technologies. So, a big thank you, Vicki.

Last- this is my first post- if I want my kids to blog, I better, right?! Any advice for me as I go through the web 2.0 process would be great!

Sheila February 12, 2008 - 2:09 am

I love this post! I feel like it is so true and that you are speaking directly to me. I am a junior in college and a future Business Education teacher. I understand what you are talking about with integrating technology in the classroom and how difficult it can be. I am currently learning about all of the new technology myself and as a Business teacher, I will most likely be teaching some technology classes. I know myself and I know I can be a bit of a hothead myself. I loved reading your post because I will always remember what it says about loosing you cool. I also LOVE what you say about change! I look forward to reading more from your blog! And I will always remember what you said about working with other teachers!

Profv February 13, 2008 - 12:33 pm

I agree with Techno constructivist, it is a more fundamental change in the relationship between the student and teacher that often is at the heart of the resistance. When I work with teachers, I put the ball back in their court by asking them (not technology related) what would you like to do better with your teaching in general? I then try to find a “simple” technical solution. This may mean that I have to set up what it looks like. I did this with the teachers in my kids’ school. I had them identify what they would like to do better, then set up a technology FOR THE YEAR for them to work on. As one of my own students said “baby steps”. What happened was first a change of attitude of technology being busy work to technology helping students learn within the context of the teacher’s own beliefs of learning. Next, teachers began to talk and show and tell as they mastered their technology. Because only one technology was their responsibility for the year, they felt empowered. Finally, they began to demand what the other teachers had (they actually asked for laptops and LDC projectors which they would not have even known about the year before). It has been very slow change, and the school is still not up to others in the area, but at least they are moving in the right direction without the conflict and active (or passive) resistance.

Perhaps it is because I am not a geek and I hate technology, but I love teaching with technology, that I don’t lose patience. I think if you start with baby steps, letting teachers set their own goals, and helping them to achieve them (at the same time building their confidence and maybe changing their perspective on their antiquated teaching practices) you will save everyone trouble with blood pressure.

Finally, having just gone through a conversion from lotus notes to blackboard WITH NO SUPPORT, exhausted by the responsibilities imposed by an administration that wants things done tomorrow with little support or time to learn, and having had to go through a training that was totally useless and did not address MY needs, I can sympathize with these teachers. During my training, I wanted to know how to set up groupwork (most of the attributes of blackboard they were giving me, I knew already or did not need since I don’t give multiple choice exams with or without technology) and they told me I would have to attend a different workshop! Is this maybe part of the problem with your colleagues? The training is not individualized enough?

Steve Mackenzie February 13, 2008 - 9:18 pm

Hi Vicki,

Another great post. My take on this is that, you need to be gentle with yourself in promoting the use of web 2.0 tools. The whole thing is such a no-brainer, it’s hard to comprehend that others don’t see it. But you don’t want to push too hard as you might blow a gasket :-)

I appreciate that in many situations conflict with an ‘authority’ figure may be unavoidable, but in my situation i like to take a grassroots revolution approach and provide help and assistance to colleagues as appropriate in the hope that the word will slowly but surely spread.

Regards Steve

Dave Ferguson February 14, 2008 - 6:46 pm

Good reflections, Vicki. It’s helped me sometimes to think about what I have found offputting when someone’s trying to encourage (or require) me to change: lack of apparent interest in my opinion or my experience, condescension, floods of jargon.

I’ve often used the analogy of being forced to switch from WordPerfect to Word (or Mac to PC, or choose your own poison…)

Not to say this has always succeeded for me, but it sometimes helps me see the source of some resistance.

Vicki A. Davis February 18, 2008 - 3:43 pm

@langwitches — What a great quote — just don’t stop!

@brachsmith — I think a lot of us are going through this now, perhaps why this is one of my most commented posts in a while (25 comments!) Change is tough and it often brings out the worst in us as we get worn out!

@andrea – I think self realization is important. It is so important that we look at the body language of others (as you’re doing) and realize what we need to improve. I have to improve on too rapidly sharing information when my audience doesn’t realize what I’m talking about — I have to put in ways to get that feedback quickly (which is why I like the backchannel). I think you also have a great perspective from knowing that we can all learn from anyone!

@downes – I think perhaps you and I see the word submit as different. I see submit as a strength — “Drop it and get on with it.” If I’m not responsible for writing the grant, I express myself and try to exact change, but if it doesn’t work it doesn’t, I’m not willing to quit over it.

There are certainly times that I will choose not to “take it” and will walk, like the time I had a boss in the business world who told me that my future at the workplace depended upon a little “extra friendliness” on my part towards him. That is definitely the time to walk. I think perhaps you and I see the word “submit” differently , my definition comes from how we use the word in my own faith.

As for hotheads, there is a different between being passionate and energized and plain old hot headed. People who run around “obliterating coworkers with their genius” while consequently “mowing them down” with their words, make no friends and tend to limit their accomplishments. I believe that people want to be treated with respect and dignity, something those who are angry all of the time often forget. Although a person is a beginner, it is not their fault – I need to calm down enough to relax and take my time to help them.

There are right and wrong ways to do things in a school environment and I believe it is important to do our best to keep the temper under control, particularly with kids watching. (It is also probably because I have such a BAD, HORRIBLE, EXPLOSIVE temper, that I have to work on this — I have learned to lose my temper very rarely, but when it happens — usually the WHOLE school knows it, which is usually not a good thing for a teacher. I guess we all have our weaknesses.)

@gladys @rash — Thank you — you echo the sentiments of many that this seems to be an issue for us all!

@techno — Wow! That is a deep argument. The teachers I see who are against change of this type have more of a “I’m stuck” attitude than the deeper thoughts such as these, although at many schools it may be such. I do think control does come into it as well. What a well thought out response, I up you simulposted it on your own blog!

@terri – You are doing the right thing: conversing, participating, experimenting — these are the ways to begin your connection with the community of best practice that is building around these tools!

@sheila – I can see that you are an encourager — thank you. And I think it is so important to have word pictures to hold onto as we go through things such as dealing with change. When I see teachers coming now who I know are going to get on me about something technology — I literally picture in my mind a person without a nose holding a rose and think of what I should do to keep calm!

“Perhaps it is because I am not a geek and I hate technology, but I love teaching with technology, that I don’t lose patience. I think if you start with baby steps, letting teachers set their own goals, and helping them to achieve them (at the same time building their confidence and maybe changing their perspective on their antiquated teaching practices) you will save everyone trouble with blood pressure.”

I love what you say! I like you profv — are you blogging? You and @techno should do a series!

@steve – Grassroots is where it is happening! And yes, it is a balancing act between passionately promoting change and realizing we cannot MAKE people change!

@dave “lack of apparent interest in my opinion or my experience, condescension, floods of jargon.”

Yes — those are the things that are obstacles. Often, however, I think technologists don’t realize they are doing this. We must consciously realize our shortcomings and work to improve them.

@all — Thank you all for some great comments and meaningful discussion. The topic of change and how to promote change is such an important one. I also think educators need encouragement to keep on keeping on! It can get so discouraging when one feels like an island.

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