Challenge Me

Help me grow. Image from http://bit.ly/n89fga CC

In his book Five Dysfunctions of a Team, Patrick Lencioni tells us that if you have a team that sits around and always agrees, you are not a real team.  Teams must challenge each other to be better.  There is no innovation if everyone agrees; agreement equals status quo.

I have recently read a few posts by educators whom I consider leaders in the the world of professional learning communities – Bill Ferriter and Cale Birk.  In Ferriter’s post, he quotes Dyer, Gregerson and Christensen (from the book Innovator’s DNA) when he writes

Recognizing that the best ideas are the by-product of intellectual collisions, true innovators constantly seek out sources of personal and professional challenge.

For my first few years as an administrator, I had battles with colleagues around assessment and student motivation.  I would come away from meetings angry and frustrated.  If someone debated me, I would take it personally.  I would defensively REACT rather than professionally RESPOND.   I strongly believed in my philosophies and would become offended if someone challenged me.  I felt there were some colleagues that i just did not get along with.

In 2009, I opened up a Twitter account and began blogging.  It took a lot of time and building of confidence to put my ideas out there but eventually, I did.  I starting writing about rewards, discipline, awards, assessment, and homework (among many other topics).  People immediately began to challenge me and I was not sure how to react.  I realized that I better have research and experience to back up my thoughts.  As I grew in the blogging world, I began to mature as an educator.  I started to love being challenged on topics and engaging in professional debate with people online.  However, in the face to face world, I still took things too personally.

This past year, I realized that I should be THANKFUL to those that have challenged me both online and in person.  It is THESE people that have helped me to grow and see education through a different lens.  Those who have asked powerful questions around student motivation and assessment have actually helped me to either become more confident in my philosophies or reflect and alter my views.

It is only through this challenges and intellectual collisions that I have grown.  To those who have challenged me within our school staff, our district or online: thank you.

It is acceptable to disagree with a person at the table but it is UNacceptable to ignore them when they have a different view.  It is important to have people in your professional learning community/network who continually challenge you and the team to be better. When someone disagrees, do not take this challenge personally and then react.  Instead – listen… reflect… respond.

I am addicted to learning and it is through respectful, challenging educational dialogue that I see the most growth.

Pernille Ripp challenged me to write about how blogging has changed my world.  Blogging had led me down a path to meet so many educators who continue to engage with me in dialogue around student learning.  The lessons I have learned from these intellectual collisions have transferred from the computer screen to face to face meetings.  Now, instead of taking things personally, I have begun to take things professionally and use the disagreements as a way to grow as an educator and as a person.

Help me continue to grow. Challenge me.


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Chris Wejr

Proud father of twin girls and a son. Currently working as the Principal of Shortreed Elementary School (K-5) in Aldergove, BC, Canada. Passionate about instruction, strengths-based education and leadership, reconciliation, assessment, and human motivation.


  1. Hi Chris,
    Great post – lots to think about! (best to start with establishing common ground…)
    My concern with your post is how to manage collisions in viewpoint and perspective within a school system that is hierarchical in construction. Many supervisors/executive in schools are either sycophants by nature or have poorly developed concepts of authority so deal with their colleagues as they deal with their students – using archaic power systems and notions of superiority (not appropriate for either set of individuals).
    To truly enable classroom teachers to have a sense of inclusion in innovation and take collision as a choice – executives in schools need to be seen as approachable and open to discourse… which not all of them find easy to achieve!
    Sounds like you might be an exception – or a new model!
    Regards, Deb Hogg (Sydney, Australia)

    • Although there are times when people are forced to make decisions due to lack of time to meet, the best decisions are made with the input of others. As a leader, i NEED perspectives of those around me. We may not always agree but we must listen. Decisions made through power alienate those who are needed for implementation. The idea of power OVER will always be less effective than power WITH. Thanks for the comment!

  2. It is always good to take a step back and reflect if we are continually being open to viewpoints and ideas of others, and being aware of how we respond as well as how we contribute our own. It can take a lot of work and effort to make sure that we create the conditions “at the table” to ensure that others can express their perspectives in open dialogue, but I think it is always worth it.

    I often see situations that deter individuals from being challenged. It’s not a good feeling to walk away thinking about the growth and progress that could have been achieved.

    I came across this quote on Twitter yesterday and saw the good reminder in it as well, “The aim of argument, or of discussion, should not be victory, but progress.” -Joseph Joubert

    Thanks for sharing this personal journey, Chris.

    • Thanks again, Sheila, for continuing to challenge me around engaging parents in education. Love that quote!

  3. Chris, your post reminds me of research that shows that cognitive dissonance leads to deeper learning. When we are faced with ideas and opinions that are a mismatch from our own we are forced to make sense of it all. (provided we don’t, as you say, ignore these opinions or ideas)

    I am done with comments that say “I agree!” “great post!” and the like. I want, as you do, to be challenged.

    So how do we build a culture that supports and enables these kinds of intellectual challenges?

    • Thanks for commenting MB! Great question… we need a culture of trust and we also need time to build this culture. We need to work to change the system (or be creative within the system) so there is more time for collaboration and cognitive dissonance. I have been part of WAY too many meetings that have an agenda that leads to zero discussion or just as the dialogue heats up, I hear those horrid words “great discussion, but we need to move on”. One easy thing that all admin and leaders can do is… if the agenda item does not require a discussion, leave it off.

      I am also trying to comment on those that I can add to the discussion or challenge the write/readers. Bit-by-bit we can move away from the echo chamber and encourage people to get comfortable being uncomfortable.

  4. Excellent post… I think that is difficult for so many (of us) to realize and accept. However, I do agree completely but need a reminder every once in a while that disagreement in topics is healthy. That helps us all grow. Thanks for the reminder… and am going to pass this one on. Can use a good debate once in a while! 🙂

  5. Chris, I was actually going to write a post about something similar to this (I still may – you’ve inspired me!). I can relate – I used to feel the same way. I would take things personally when someone questioned my ideas. Now, I think differently – I welcome those questions that challenge me and my thinking because they help me grow as a learner and an educator. I always enjoy reading your posts, Chris! Never stop…I promise to challenge you one day. 🙂

    • Thanks Carmela! I remember as a coach, I used to tell me players to practice at the edge of the comfort zone and step outside once in a while. When we get comfortable being uncomfortable we get better as educators and people. Being challenged is how we grow… thanks for adding to this conversation!

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