Special Education Opinion

We Can Learn About Building Community From ‘The Big Bang Theory’

By Jill Berkowicz & Ann Myers — September 24, 2013 3 min read
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Why does the television show The Big Bang Theory appeal to so many people? For one thing, it elevates “geeks” to being absolutely loveable. Another is each of the show’s characters embrace facets of all human beings. They are young dreamers, filled with potential and with questions, working life out together. Their roles encompass the shy, those with OCD behaviors, or those who might appear on the autism spectrum. They are inclusive, young men and women possessing intelligence above most of us but open to the love and friendship of those who are beautifully different. Like so many of us, they are enamored with super heroes. Each one of them wants to be accepted for who they are and wants the friendship of the others. That is what makes them so understandable to us; it is not the physics of the show, it is the human drama. They need each other. What does this have to do with leadership?

We will not be relieved from the task of leading never-ending change because we are in the 21st century and change is a constant. We will not be relieved from the task of implementing political agendas and regulatory mandates because that will always be part of our work. What we need, in order to lead successful schools, is to know how to develop and sustain communities of which we can be a part. One thing is clear on the Big Bang Theory - intelligence in isolation is not enough. To develop relationships ...with students, colleagues, parents, or agencies... is essential. In a true community, we can disagree and earn respect by being who we are. Creative things happen. That community is where nonstop pressures generate the energy for change leadership to become remarkable.

Building community is less challenging as we develop our capacities for acceptance and inclusion. It is not the intelligence or the science that makes the TV show work, it is the interaction among the characters. And, it is humor. Oh, do we need humor in our work. They are serious scientists...and an aspiring actress... but they play and find space for each other. The communities we need to create and nurture consist of an ever-enlarging group of people who trust us and whom we trust. They are built upon understanding and shared values.

We can bet these are not the top thoughts on your list of things to do as you open the office or classrooms door each day. Some of us think trust is a by product of action when in actuality it is the catalyst for action. It begins with our own authenticity - bringing our true self to our work. That is difficult when we are leading schools beset with regulations and tasks we did not create or welcome. But, there is something that we truly have 100% control over - ourselves.

The temptation to remain closed, within our group of obvious supporters, is great. It is comfortable, and, in fearful and chaotic environments like today’s schools, we can lean into comfort. From the Collaborative Justice website:

Ultimately, and ideally, all team members become leaders who work to keep one another at the table, celebrate their successes on a consistent basis, remain committed to reaching consensus, value the contributions of everyone involved, and uphold agreed-upon norms and ground rules.

It seems inevitable, in this age of transparency, that we need to build our communities with integrity, compassion, and empathy. That work is our own personal work and is measured by our success with our communities. It is curious. What is good for us is good for our community. We will be healthier, happier, and engaged with our own true passion if we maintain our integrity. Through that integrity, we will build our communities of support. First, we must know who we are and be who we are. Then, we must accept that we need community, not as a strategy but for lifeblood. Like those wonderful characters in the Big Bang Theory, each is less without all of them. Inspiration follows...and laughter, too.

Connect with Ann and Jill on Twitter or by email.

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