Almost everyone has the same two problems…


In the view of many observers, teachers’ dissatisfaction is … closer to passive resignation than to active indignation, closer to dejection that deflates energy than to anger that inspires action…. There is much research to confirm the importance of a sense of efficacy—the sense of making a meaningful difference…—in teachers’ motivation and performance. —Robert Evans (my emphasis added in bold)

Almost everyone has the same two problems.

The first problem is whatever problem we are experiencing at the moment – a technical problem related to teaching or leadership, a relationship problem, a health problem, or whatever it may be.

The second problem, which is often as or more significant than the first problem, is the way we think about the first problem.

How we define a problem and what we believe about it often determines whether we think it can be solved and whether we have the ability to solve it.

Resignation—that is, not believing there is anything we can do to improve the situation—is the most common of those energy-destroying mental barriers. 

Believing that a problem is unsolvable is, after all, the first step in ensuring that it won’t be solved.

In Leading for Results I wrote: “Resignation is an intellectual and emotional state in which educators come to believe that their individual and collective actions cannot improve teaching and learning, particularly given the large and serious problems that affect the lives of many students and their families…. A profound consequence of this belief is that teachers and administrators act as if they have a very small, or perhaps even nonexistent, circle of influence related to student learning.”

Do you agree that resignation is a powerful, often unrecognized barrier to solving the challenging problems of teaching, learning, and leadership? 

4 Responses to “Almost everyone has the same two problems…”

  1. 1 Donna Norley November 5, 2014 at 6:38 am

    I agree that this problem is shared by all. And in my role as administrator, when I find myself in that resigned funk, I have to pull myself out of it, so as not to negatively affect those around me. Thank you Dennis, you have had an uncanny knack for delivering timely and effective messages into my world.

  2. 3 Jamie November 5, 2014 at 8:49 am

    Yes, Dennis, I absolutely agree. The school leader plays an important role in recognizing resignation and empowering and inspiring teachers to action. And we also need to learn to pull ourselves out of it as Donna describes above. As I’m writing this I’d say that resignation is closely tied to our ability to demonstrate resilience. Thanks for a thought provoking post!

  3. 4 Dennis Sparks November 5, 2014 at 12:23 pm

    Resilience, like efficacy, seems like an apt term, Jamie. It’s a combination of hopefulness, emotional and social intelligence, and resourcefulness/skillfulness in solving problems. I appreciate your comment!

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