good sense and sound judgement in practical matters.
German Translation: gesunder menschenverstand. Literally healthy people mind
Chinese Translation: 常识 . Literally Often Knowledge
I was recently researching some social media guidelines for teachers. During my research I came across this overarching statement about how teachers should interact with social media:
Use common sense, professional judgment, and caution.
Use common sense. What a simple instruction. If we knew what common sense was and whether we had it or not!
I would like to delve in to common sense and its place in education. We may not know it but a lot (not all) of the arguments or passionate debates we have in education revolve around the presence or lack of common sense. Somebody at the end of the day may be proved wrong and their common sense questioned.
I would like to think that if you have common sense as an educator you have your students’ and colleagues’ well-being, safety, and overall development at the forefront of all the decisions you make. This in turn develops a deep sense of mutual respect in the educational environment.
So there are some questions we need to ask ourselves first when thinking about common sense. Some of us may be in denial that we may lack common sense. These may help us ponder…
I find myself arguing against everyone’s ideas and decisions. I don’t agree with anyone! Do I lack common sense?
I dare say if you are arguing against everything and everyone you probably lack common sense. I doubt everyone else is the problem.
However if you find yourself in an establishment with rules and regulations made in a bygone era you may find that common sense today may not have been the same as the common sense of 5, 10, 20 or 30 years ago. You may be fighting against a frozen establishment lacking a current and relevant resemblance of common sense if that is the case. Scientific research and new educational methodologies can affect the parameters of common sense.
What if I don’t have common sense? Do I know if I don’t?
You may not know you don’t (do I?!). If you find that many educators and colleagues agree with most of what you say and do (I do! To my face anyway!); you probably do possess common sense! Congratulations! Or maybe it’s that all your colleagues and people who agree with you are lacking common sense!
That’s unlikely. I think.
Of course life brings debates, discussions, and arguments; that’s natural. Two people with common sense can have a rational and healthy debate with positive outcomes. It’s the skewed ratio of heated arguments and disagreements to effective collaboration and collegiality that you may need to pay attention to.
Am I a bad teacher if I don’t have common sense?
You may not be a bad teacher but you may make ill-informed decisions and have mis-guided opinions that aren’t based on proven research, effective feedback from past experiences, or methodologies that may not stand up to debate with or inspections by your colleagues and the world at large.
Can I have moments where I just lack common sense but the rest of the time I’m good?!
Sure. Stress, fatigue, and multiple distractions can cause a lack of common sense at times. I left home recently without my lunch/keys/wallet (all of these are accurate). I lacked common sense at that moment. I was fatigued alright?! Most mornings (up until around 7:30) I lack common sense due to me being fatigued. And grumpy.
The first step in battling a lack of common sense is admitting you sometimes lack it. I sometimes postpone major decisions until after 7:30…
How do I level up my common sense ability?
I don’t want to bring up…up bringing….but sometimes you have an innate sense of common sense because of the way in which you grew up. I think that everyone has the opportunity to step back and reassess their common sense track record and be more aware of future behavior.
There are a number of websites out there that plot out how you can start thinking about your common sense levels:
1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6.
In the educational realm, if you want to think about yourself and how you can increase your ability to think more clearly about your common sense abilities I’ve come up with the following areas to focus on:
You need to be aware of outside factors that may be causing you to mis-align your common sense. As I mentioned before stress and fatigue can totally mess you up. But an awareness of your own preconceptions and bias is very important too.
It’s an old adage but before rationally using sound judgement and good sense you have to put yourself in other people’s shoes. Are your opinions and decisions correct in your eyes just because you, from your perspective, perceive them to be true? It’s also important to think about the context of culture and environment. Perhaps some things don’t make sense due to being outside of the cultural bubble looking in at “strange” behaviors and habits from your perspective. Lack of cultural awareness sometimes results in things being perceived in lacking common sense. But I could go down a whole different path with that discussion..
Know that you might be wrong. Know that you’re not (always) the most important cog in a system. Know that, yes, you can make a difference but input from other people is often times essential in ensuring sound judgement and good sense have played a major part.
Don’t do everything on your own or you’ll just be in a world of you (that’s scary). A world of just you is not reality. Working with others refreshes your mindset, opens you up to different perspectives (see above) and instills a sense of worth in taking on different approaches to your work and thinking.
Question yourself and question others. Don’t take every decision and thought and go with it (I’ve been sitting on this blog post for 6 months now and have just added this part!). In tandem with collaborating you will be questioned and you will, in turn, question yourself. That’s a good thing. I’ve sent this blog post to a couple of people to read over and to see if, in general, it makes sense. Without questioning myself and receiving questions I may never know if I’m making any sense here!
We are always directing our students to reflect on their work. Why? To look back at what they did and did not do well, why they did what they did and how to improve the next time. If we, as educators, don’t look back and reflect on what we have done we will never figure out how to be better educators and to self-assess our common sense. Self-reflection is a great start but getting peer reflection too is invaluable (because your peers are not you and don’t love you as much as you do and won’t be that easy on you). Reflection is probably the most important way we can fine tune our common sense. As we work year after year we have experiences. Some experiences are great and some not so great. Reflecting on all of these experiences may eliminate any lapses of common sense that made some experiences not so great. Even remembering that horrible lesson you taught happened the day after you came back from your root canal is a good thing because you can teach it better next time with hopefully a clearer mind and less pain.
tl;dr Everybody! Let’s be more mindful of common sense!