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ripple effects

June 22, 2013


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Term two is always a test on many levels.

Exam pressures, reporting, mid-way marks calculated, review, re-alignment, year 10 subject selection initiating the next iterative phase, feedback cycles that hopefully lead out and onward, though,  for some, emotional stonewalling generates anger and frustration.

How to deal with these emotional ripples of disconnect?

This week I bore witness to year 12 students whose diverse responses to exam feedback and final semester marks exposed the human expression of what can appear an inhuman juggernaut; emotional states of being are unpredictable (though I’ve witnessed distress before, nuance can still surprise); perceived failure is often awkward or uncomfortable; and passage through turbulence can be difficult, assuming movement occurs.

Too many cogs have been ground in workshops for me to draw on that metaphor, hence my reference to organic ripples in beginning this post.

What have I seen?

  • fear of failure
  • sense of self worth diminish
  • uncertainty lead to questioning – how can this be?
  • angry blaming (exam was too hard; this is unfair; you didn’t teach us; the problem is you)
  • gossip/ misinformation inflamed old wounds
  • considered support (this last much appreciated)

2013-06-21 15.46.53

Interesting perspective was afforded in my week-that-was experience:

  1. Attending district WACE Consensus for 3A English meant a contingent of English teachers across our district marked student folders for 3 hours in order to determine accuracy of grading. How did I fare? Judgement affirmed; feelings of satisfaction with my process, and identification of standards confirmed.
  2. Stage two of our school’s building programme nears completion, and a group of us undertook a walkthrough yesterday to gauge progress; strange to be on the inside of barriers erected to keep intruders out. Stranger still for staff who perceived otherness (memories of before) in what is newly rendered.

How often, though, are emotions measured, let alone shared?

Any notion that rational sanity is in control, especially in the workplace, may

indicate incongruities that can function as valuable indicators of the need for change in an organization (Beatty, 2000, p. 334).

Change is a constant.

Change creates uncertainty.

And, for some, change is seen as a threat.


In research carried out by Sigal Barsade at Yale University School of Management, volunteers undertook roles alongside a coached plant whose role

was to infect the group with one or another… emotional states, like spreading a virus among unknowing victims.

Good feelings spread more powerfully than bad ones, and the effects were extremely salutary, boosting cooperation, fairness, collaboration, and overall group performance….

Emotional competence requires being able to pilot through the emotional undercurrents always at play rather than being pulled under by them (Goleman, 1998, p. 166).

There’s a notion: Emotional seeding.

Like a steer who runs with the bulls, perhaps.

Thus, my goal remains to persist in the face of adversity, “sense how others are reacting”, fine-tune my responses to nudge interactions “in the best direction” (Goleman, 1998, p. 167).

By embracing uncertainty and dissent, controversy can be used to surface relevant details, and disputation

thereby contributes to the quality of solutions… Such an approach rests on argument, not harmony; on a disparate, not a homogenous culture; and on explicit contradiction, not artificially smoothed interactions. Strategy for the future is simply too complicated and too ambiguous to be dealt with in any other way  (Harte, 1999, p. 133).

Depicted in the title sequence from “Kung Fu”, and mapped in any hero’s journey, self-efficacy is apparent in anyone who believes themselves capable of accomplishing goals. Teachers and leaders

model hope, confidence, perseverance – and the lack of these qualities. Their beliefs in their own ability to “get through” to their students can transfer to children’s beliefs in themselves. The motivation that both leads to and flows from self-efficacy is part of a reinforcing spiral of cause and effect (Leithwood & Beatty, 2008, p. 79).


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Selected references

Beatty, B.R. (2000). The emotions of educational leadership: Breaking the silence. International Journal of Leadership, 3 (4), 331 – 357. Retrieved from The emotions of educational leadership: breaking the  – CiteSeerX

Goleman, D. (1998). Working with emotional intelligence. Great Britain: Bloomsbury Publishing.

Harte, H. (1999). Managing the unknowable and complexity and creativity in organizations, Ralph D. Stacey. Emergence: A Journal of Complexity Issues in Organizations and Management, 1, (2), p. 129-132. Retrieved from

Leithwood, K. & Beatty, B. (2008). Leading with teacher emotions in mind. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.

Recommended reading

Gladwell, M. (2008). Outliers: The story of success. New York: Little, Brown and Company.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. June 22, 2013 4:49 pm

    Hi there. As ever a great post. Thank you. But I also wanted to ask how you got that really neat line of FB/Twitter/YouTube squares at the top right of your page. I have read countless WordPress forums on how to do this and none of them make any sense to me.As ever with thanks

    • June 22, 2013 4:56 pm

      Hi Anthony,
      Go into Appearance folder on the left hand side of your dashboard page, then select widgets; from there you are able to insert all sorts of links. The one you refer to, I think, is my About Me widget.
      First step is therefore signing up for an About Me account and creating a page.
      Good luck with the layout refinements!

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