Shoshin is a Zen Buddhist term meaning "beginner's mind".

The beginner is able to ask questions. The expert is only concerned with answering them. Often, the expert answers questions without even giving pause to think. The answers are predetermined, calculated and/or ridden with agenda.

I am fighting hard to "de-expertise" myself.

In order to be the educators that our children deserve, we must adopt a Shoshin mindset. We must be open to the beauty of the everyday. We must be able to view our daily interactions with new eyes. We may have done something countless times but for our students, it may be their first attempt.

How can we learn or practice anything new if we close our eyes and our minds to possibility?

This past Sunday, "60 Minutes" did a profile on Pope Francis I. The Pontiff is revolutionizing our Faith by deftly utilizing both small and large measures. The most recognized aspects seem to be the most simple ones like his modest apartment, riding public transit, handling many of his personal affairs and signing his name as simply "Francis". An Argentinian reporter, who knew him back in his days as Archbishop Jorge Mario Bergoglio, described the attention paid to the little things as "the scandal of normalcy".  People are genuinely shocked and inspired by this normalcy. Our expectations and understandings are being shaken in a wonderful way. Pope Francis embodies Shoshin. He has his eyes open. He sees the power of things that are often unseen. My hope is that this will serve as an example to us all.

"experts" suck

  "Intentional Interruptions" by Steven Katz and Lisa Dack is a powerful book. The most enduring learning for me is the exploration of how we approach new evidence. A person can either assimilate (incorporate new evidence into currents ways of looking at things; melting into a current schema) or accommodate (change ways of thinking based on current evidence; jarring current schema). In order to accommodate new knowledge, we must confront our personal biases. We must "intentional interrupt" our practice. The expert would have tremendous difficulty with this proposition while the educator practising "a beginner's mind" would find it liberating.

   Paradoxically, the person practicing "shoshin" likely knows far more in terms of  hard knowledge and soft observation. It is no coincidence that many of the great tech innovators were Montessori kids. Larry Page, Sergey Brin (Google founders) and Jeff Bezos (Amazon founder and CEO) were educated on questioning in their early years as part of the Montessori system. These great thinkers are able to ask exploratory questions and then form theories. The uncommon part is what comes next, they don't cling to these theories. They test them and ask more questions. They are not afraid to tear down one way of understanding or acting for a better one. They determine "better" through questioning and testing. They see possibilities while the expert is too busy being right to see them.

Please don't be an expert; your students deserve more.


When you have the time, this video is definitely worth watching.