Thursday, December 26, 2013

Sculpting Iron

There was a very interesting short read in the Jan/Feb 2014 The Atlantic called An Iron Fish in Every Pot.  It shares the experience about Christopher Charles, a researcher living in Cambodia studying the mass impact of anemia, especially on Cambodia’s women and children.  Anemia has many side effects, including impaired growth and cognitive development in children, and increased risks of premature deliveries and newborn fatalities.

Charles knew that iron-rich foods and supplements were limited for most rural Cambodians.  Whilea few acquired the needed iron nutrients through cast-iron pots, those utensils were largely unavailable.  So Charles distributed small blocks of iron to communities, telling them to place the iron blocks in their pots for cooking and boiling water.  However, he quickly observed that they were being used as mere doorstops.

Believing that he still had a remedy, he learned from the village elders of a fish known as try kantrop, which was a common meal and considered good luck.  When he handed out the iron blocks again, this time as replicas of the popular fish, the women started cooking with them.  Within 12 months, anemia where the iron fish was distributed all but disappeared.
This story has many lessons. One takeaway for me is grasping something that we know is valuable and beneficial for those that we serve, and delivering it in a manner that is welcomed.   A natural reaction to almost anything that comes across as “here, take this…it’s good for you” is met by some level of resistance…the “good for you” opportunities are not always considered as such.  In our schools, the opportunities can come in many forms: quality programs, improved curriculum, & effective instruction. But if it is not conveyed in a manner that the learner recognizes as anything more than a doorstop, the likelihood of it being associated as advantageous will not happen.  Part of our creativity in leading may include sculpting and repackaging quality instruction and effective learning so that it is engaging and embraced as worthy.

A consequential question naturally follows...what educational block of iron needs to be sculpted?