Dr. Matthew X. Joseph – Follow on Twitter @MatthewXJoseph
“Haters never win. Because negative energy always costs in the end.”
If you are confused about what “Cobra Kai” means or you don’t instantly say, “No mercy, mercy is for the weak” or “Sweep the leg,” Stop Reading and go watch the original Karate Kid. Seriously, that is an awesome movie. Then come back!
A collaborative community is the presence of opportunities for shared leadership, educator ownership, and sharing of instructional and pedagogical ideas. The goal of this book is to provide strategies to support educators and leaders with individual and group ideas and skills to create schools that will work to create a community of Us inside them. However, you must also learn about false collaborative communities.
The Cobra Kai is a fictional karate dojo in the movie Karate Kid, run by badass John Kreese. You hear and see Kreese teach his students to be merciless and in turn his students become unethical and very intimidated. Johnny Lawrence is his star student. I would describe him as self-centered and a master manipulator. He is uncaring and unapologetic to needs outside of his own and of the needs of the dojo. He was typically at the center of any plot or scheme to maintain control of the popularity or dominance in the group.
You may be thinking, “Where is he going with this?” and enough with “Danielson” (that is what the Karate Kid is called by his teacher). But let’s look at the characteristics of that Dojo.
This blog post could also have been called Avoiding the Imperial Force Community because Darth Vader was the Supreme Commander of the Imperial Force and they were also community. Just think of the Darth Vader song when he entered a scene. If you don’t hear that bone-chilling tune in your head, check it out: http://bit.ly/DaVader . Just because a group of people are in a location, with a perceived goal, and moving in the same direction does not make it a collaborative community or even a positive one.
The Cobra Kai dojo had a very selfish purpose and the norms did not change and no one questioned them. When a student lost a match, the others blamed the student for lack of progress and discouraged collaboration by not supporting him. The Cobra Kai dojo may be a fictional place, but if you reread the individual and dojo characteristics you may see some similarities to a toxic school community. In these negative communities, the staff may be afraid to offer suggestions or ideas. They fear of being criticized and retreat to their silos. This negativity continues in an environment like this because new staff who bring hope, energy, and ideas are quickly squelched by the school’s Johnny Lawrence (the most powerful, or veteran, or just the squeakiest wheel). Sadly, that new teacher will resocialize into negative ways of thinking, retreat to their silo, and the cycle of negativity will continue.
No educator or staff member wants to work in the school described above. It takes leadership (teacher or administrator, or both), time, and direction to rebuild or change these kinds of communities (unless Luke Skywalker or Mr. Miyagi work in your district). I believe that most schools are not this negative, but it is hard to let go of negativity, especially if it has festered over time. We must start with ourselves and make the courageous choice every day to not add more negativity. I know sometimes it seems we have to make the choice to be positive again and again throughout the day, but this is where vision and the skills to stay on course comes into play.
As you build your tool box of positivity working toward a community of Us, try a few of these recommendations. Be a part of the solution.
Tomorrow – try one of the five suggestions above.