The Fallacy of the “Either/Or” Scenario

    I am visiting a district in Pennsylvania soon, and as a “Twitter Challenge” before I join them, educators were encouraged to send some questions to me ahead of time. I have tried to respond to some tweets on Twitter, but I wanted to respond to this one through my blog:

    Question for you, @gcouros: Change is one of the hardest things for us to do (as humans), yet we preach it as educators. How do we create a climate of change in the things we do/teach in education when we naturally find comfort in our habits/routines? #InnovateCVSD
    — Mario de La Barrera (@Mr_d_Hampden) September 19, 2018

    Here is the thing, routine and change are not mutually exclusive. Some of the best changes can come through developing a routine.
    For example, one of the routines I have been more focused on implementing in my daily life is more vigorous exercise. Before I look at social media or my email, I have made it part of my daily routine to make sure that I go to the gym or go for a run. The benefits of implementing this routine have led to me having more energy throughout the day, more clarity in my thinking, and honestly, a much better mood.
    The routine of exercise is proven to be beneficial to moods and intelligence and is shown to improve learning:
    Being in good shape increases your ability to learn. After exercise people pick up new vocabulary words 20% faster.
    Via Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain:
    “One of the prominent features of exercise, which is sometimes not appreciated in studies, is an improvement in the rate of learning, and I think that’s a really cool take-home message,” Cotman says. “Because it suggests that if you’re in good shape, you may be able to learn and function more efficiently.”
    Indeed, in a 2007 study of humans, German researchers found that people learn vocabulary words 20 percent faster following exercise than they did before exercise, and that the rate of learning correlated directly with levels of BDNF.

    Want to be more creative? Sweating for about a half hour on the treadmill notably increases cognitive flexibility.
    ViaSpark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain:
    A notable experiment in 2007 showed that cognitive flexibility improves after just one thirty-five-minute treadmill session at either 60 percent or 70 percent of maximum heart rate… Cognitive flexibility is an important executive function that reflects our ability to shift thinking and to produce a steady flow of creative thoughts and answers as opposed to a regurgitation of the usual responses.

    The “routine” of exercise is beneficial to growth and change.  We often work in “either/or” scenarios in education where the reality is that many answers are somewhere in the middle.  It is not that routines are bad for change it is that “bad routines” are bad for change. I have the routine of reflecting through my blog three times a week which ensures that I have time to think about what, how, and why I do what I do. That redundant practice has led to more growth than any other endeavour I have ever done in education.
    So can “routine” and “change” co-exist in education? Absolutely. Can changing it up lead to growth as well? Yup. It is more about what you do and why you do it, more than the routine of doing something. It is up to the educator and to the learner to identify what routines are beneficial to growth and what routines will leave us stuck.

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