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Teaching: Extinction Management

In Extinction Management - Quit Your Day Job 101 John Pederson has written a wonderful entry that describes his decision to quit his career as an educational technologist. His article is enhanced by the quick insight of Hugh McLeod at Gaping Void. Since I too left a career in education (Extinction-Management Date: 1997), John's entry is one that resonated with my own experience. There are many teachers out there that, for good reasons, question the fundamental value of educational technology (what is non-educational technology anyway?). However, for some challenging the education system leads directly to questioning what they want to do with their life. This is a basic pattern we can see in many work places, that is, we gain greater insight into the workplace we currently find ourselves in we begin to question our own purpose and identity in life...

There’s a strange synchronicity happening in my life, in my conversations, and in my reading.
- John Pederson in Extinction Management - Quit Your Day Job 101

This is a very important statement. There are times in life when we feel a certain pull on our being as if we are being drawn towards something we cannot fully comprehend in that moment. It invites intuition, or a sense of felt meaning (that is, meaning that cannot yet be expressed clearly in words). Often this intuitive sense is driven by mounting tension in our lives - the tension between the emerging reality of what we are doing with our lives, and the pull toward what we want to be doing with our lives.

Teachers and students are placed into a very precarious circumstance in education. While the language and promise of education speaks the helping and nurturing language, teachers often realize that the language is out of whack with the reality they find themselves in. The tension leads to a very basic question: Do I stay in this career, or do I let it and go and see what happens?

As Amy Hendrickson describes, the thought of leaving a career as an educator comes with significant risk. Educators, while the position may be stressful, enjoy a very secure station in life. Teachers that have never tried to forge a career outside of the education cannot fully appreciate the challenges of embarking on a new career. There are the more obvious things like losing job security and a pension. However, having teaching degrees and experience on a resume is not a particularly useful thing outside of education. Many wind up following a path in consulting, or embrace a life of entrepreneurship.

Students face a similar challenge. For example, the secondary school dropout rate in Ontario is approximately 30% (refer: Curriculum: The Double Cohort Effect). When a student leaves school without a secondary school diploma they are faced with significant challenges. Entrepreneurship is one of the best options for them as well. Creativity is a requirement for economic survival. It should also be mentioned that many students dropout of school of very good reasons, just as teachers might "dropout" to pursue something of greater significance in their own lives.

Sometimes we hear others referring to people like these as "quitters." This kind of response is trite nonsense, and is often nothing more than a defensive reaction to a system that is failing. Many prominent people have commented on the failure of their own education. Defenders of the obvious problems in education often shroud themselves in a cloak of optimism and innovation when in fact they are fundamentally deceptive.

Today, I’m riding free. I gave up a job that I completely loved, but a job that was seriously conflicting with the creative, idealistic, and passionate part of my personality. At 31, I couldn’t see doing this for another 25 years. As each one ticked, things became increasingly comfortable. My dreams of letting it all go and “chasing the Internet” got more scary.
- John Pederson in Extinction Management - Quit Your Day Job 101

Entrepreneurship is a means to ride free in order to follow our creative, idealistic and passionate selves. Of course, entrepreneurship also comes with significant risk. However, for a person who has realized they are fundamentally unhappy in their present employment, entrepreneurship is less of a risk than remaining where they are.

Jerry Wennstrom captures the spirit of this personal growth wonderfully:

There are two key experiences that lead to and support fundamental change for me - and by "fundamental change" I mean "The" event that changes life permanently and at the deepest level. First, there is the allurement of inspiration with its ongoing magic. Then, at the other end of the spectrum, there is the catalyst of change that comes from boring, useless suffering, which is often the result of living outside of one's true place of freedom in the world. It is often these 2 conditions that cause me to question my life, as it may currently exist. Through deep and honest questioning I can begin to open to some inspired new possibility that I may have been sensing at an intuitive level all along.
- Narrative: Jerry Wennstrom - Interview

The allurement of inspiration refers to that initiative pull we sometimes feel, an intuitive pull that at times in our lives cannot be avoided. The catalyst for change speaks to the beneficial and transformative power of our own personal suffering in life.

When we personally experience events like these in our own lives, or come to share an event with another person seeking personal growth, we come into intimate contact with learning. One possible reason for this is that we are allured by inspiration and invite the transformative power of suffering to act as a catalyst for change. In another sense, we make ourselves available to mystery.

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