Upstream Thinking . . . Where to find a point of leverage?

“. . . Because every time we learn something, we fill in one more piece of the map as we hunt for the levers that can move the world.”

~ Dan Heath

In Upstream, Heath proposes that in order to find leverage points, you need to immerse yourself in the problem.  One way to tackle this is to consider the risk and protective factors for the problem that you’re trying to prevent.  Problems have a variety of factors and each of those factors is a potential leverage point.  Heath also presents an alternative to the focus on risk and protective factors.  He suggests that your leverage point may be a specific subpopulation of people.  A subpopulation like the students you teach!  

The problems that many students face are overwhelming.  What can a teacher do to help a student who lacks healthy food or basic health care?  How can you help students that are chronically stressed?  As adults, we not only want to believe that there are leverage points for these problems, we want to know where they are and how to get our hands on them.  Leverage points are points of power.  They are an invitation to think more broadly about the many ways there might be to enact change.  Being able to reach within the system and align efforts with others who can help is a benefit of being a district using the Blueprint framework.  Teachers are continually examining data to determine the needs of students. This information is shared with the Building Network utilizing the Communications System.  Decisions are made and action plans are implemented.  Non-academic needs are met through the Student Support Network.  This network specifically addresses the social, emotional, health, nutritional, and behavioral needs of each child.  Systems enable teachers and leaders to confront and ameliorate many of the challenges facing students.

A teacher’s calling is to educate students which involves knowing not only the content side of education but also the social-emotional side.  Getting to know students and developing positive relationships with them helps you appreciate the full complexity of their lives.  Heath does say in his book that getting proximate is not a guarantee of progress.  He says that it’s a start, not a finish.  Teachers are adept at figuring out what works and what doesn’t.  Each time you seek to understand your students, you are filling in another piece of the puzzle.  

How will you strive to build your understanding of your students? Imagine the possibilities when you, “. . . hunt for the levers that can move the world.”