“A bend in the road is not the end of the road… Unless you fail to make the turn.” Helen Keller – Goal Setting
How do you know when to adapt your goals?
Rarely to we achieve our goals by following the exact path we set at the beginning. Instead, we experience twists and turns that we must learn to adapt along the way. These unexpected events inspire us to refocus and change our goals. Other times, however, we push through and continue along the path with the original goal firmly fixed in our mind. We maintain focus in the midst of uncertainty.
Join Steve and Dan Fouts – founders of Teach Different and twin brothers with over 50 years of teaching experience – for a compelling conversation about goal-setting, enriched by the Teach Different Method.
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Dan Fouts 00:00
Hello, Steve and Dan Fouts here from Teach Different. We’re veteran teachers from the United States bringing educators together from around the world to learn a simple conversation method, which we model on this podcast for you. If you’re a teacher, administrator, or parent who wants to use the power of conversations to build stronger relationships and fight polarization, stay tuned to hear the impact our method can have on your discussions. Then join our Community of Educators at teachdifferent.com for additional resources and to participate in lively conversations among teachers and faculty, free for 30 days.
Welcome, everybody to the Teach Different podcast. This week, we are excited to have a quote from Helen Keller about goal setting. She has some absolutely amazing quotes. We have another one in our conversation library on teamwork. This one is going to be on goal setting.
Dan Fouts 00:55
Let’s talk about our conversation method. We start with her quote, then work with the claim of her quote – interpret what it means in our own words. We’ll share some personal experiences to help our listeners visualize how this would be in a classroom with students. This quote is one that any aged student will be able to connect with. Then, we’re going to move to the counterclaim – the opposite of what Helen Keller is saying. The key is to believe in the counterclaim as much as you believed in the claim. This is what creates tension in the conversation. Finally, we’ll end with an essential question. That’s the method. Now, here’s the quote from Helen Keller, “A bend in the road is not the end of the road…Unless you fail to make the turn.” Steve, how would you weigh in on this? What is the claim?
Steve Fouts 02:07 – Claim
When I look at this quote, I think about life and how life can throw us curve balls at times. When she says “a bend in the road,” that could be something unexpected that’s happening in life. Something you couldn’t have known was going to happen, but you have to make a change in order to function and to get where you’re trying to go. I think the claim is that you will get where you need to be and be successful, if you’re ready to change it up.
Dan Fouts 02:54
Now, it’s not the end of the road, right? A bend in the road is not the end of the road. I think she’s speaking to this idea that when unexpected things happen some people are prone to immediately give up and think that it’s the end of the road. I’m just gonna stop doing what I was doing, because I’m never going to get there. Helen Keller is coaxing us to stay in it. I agree with what you said, that you have to adapt and not see obstacles as the end. See obstacles as an opportunity to adapt to get to where you were going in a more creative way.
Steve Fouts 03:42
Yeah. The kids are going to have a lot to talk about. I’m trying to think of a good prompt. What’s a good prompt that you could ask the students to bring out some of their experiences?
Dan Fouts 04:04
A really good prompt right now is the pandemic that we’re still in the middle of. It has upended everyone’s plans and canceled so many things. Everyone in the world has had to adapt. A prompt could be, what are some of the bends in the road you’ve experienced due to the pandemic? How have you tried to adapt and stay positive? This could be a pandemic discussion, to be honest. Can you think of anything else?
Steve Fouts 04:54
That’s good. Everyone would have something to say about that. I would have them think about the things in their life that they thought were true, that ended up not being true. How did they deal with a major change in their life? Something that they couldn’t foresee. It wasn’t their fault, but forces beyond their control. Share a change that happened in your life that forced you to use different strategies to become a different person.
Dan Fouts 05:57
Yeah, that’s good. That’s a really good prompt. I’m thinking of a student I saw today in class with crutches. He’s on the basketball team and injured himself. His picture of the basketball season is very different now. That’s something kids can relate to. How is he adapting to this injury? It could be a sports thing or an exam that they’re studying for. They thought they were going to do well, but they didn’t. Helen Keller is saying, it’s not the end of the road. What turn are you going to make? What are you going to do? Are you going to talk to the teacher and get some suggestions for improvement? Are you going to work with a peer next time to do better? Are you going to study more? What’s your next play?
Steve Fouts 07:11
Yeah, this is really a mindset quote. The quote, if you really take it to heart, is preparing you for the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune in life. Don’t dread them or get frustrated, but acknowledge that they’re going to happen. You’ll be okay as long as you realize that the bend in the road doesn’t mean all your goals aren’t possible, but that they’re not in the place you thought they were going to be. That’s okay. What’s not okay is thinking that the bend in the road is the end. That gets into perseverance.
Steve Fouts 08:09 – Counterclaim
I feel like we’re already moving to the counterclaim. Let’s go to the counterclaim. I would say the best counterclaim to this is a recognition. There are bends in the road. Things are always changing. Most things are not predictable. The hardest part is not adapting, but committing to something and sticking with it. Don’t let life make you settle for something that is less than what you wanted. I think the counterclaim is that you need to stick to your guns and stay committed. That’s the first thing that came to my mind for the counterclaim.
Dan Fouts 09:20
I’m going to read the quote again. “A bend in the road is not the end of the road…Unless you fail to make the turn.” Are you saying that sometimes you shouldn’t make the turn, that you should continue on the road even though it’s bending? Like you’re willing it to go straight, because you’re not going to adapt?
Steve Fouts 09:44
That’s one way to do it. You’re not adapting by choice. Another way to think about the counterclaim is that there’s a bend in the road or something that didn’t work out the way you thought it was going to work out. Maybe it’s okay that the road ended. Maybe that’s a road you shouldn’t have been on. We get ourselves into situations where things aren’t going well and we have to change. We’re having to adapt to other people, and now we’re not the person we thought we were. We’re getting knocked here and there, but we’re trying to stay positive, pick ourselves up, and keep going. Maybe it’s better to have something end and start over.
Dan Fouts 11:00
A friendship could be something that the kids relate to. Who has had a friend that you’re not getting along with as well as you have in the past? Maybe it’s because you moved from elementary to middle school, or middle school to high school, but it just isn’t going the way it used to. Maybe you find yourself thinking that you want to make this friendship work. You don’t want to lose this friend. You want to take this bend in the road, and make it okay. The counterclaim is saying that it’s time to move on. It’s time to politely bury that friendship, or transform it into something else. There’s nothing wrong with that.
Steve Fouts 12:02
You just made me think of another way to talk about the counterclaim. Helen Keller said there’s a bend in the road and it’s not the end of the road, but maybe a bend in the road should be the end of a road. You’re not looking for a road that is changing and always making you adapt to it. There are enough things in life that we have to adapt to, that we can’t do anything about.
Dan Fouts 12:46
A prompt for students could be, what are the things in life that you think you need to stay committed to no matter what, no matter what the changes? What are you most loyal to? They might say their parents, their friends, or their job, if it’s an older student. Get them to realize there are some things that actually do not fit with this quote, where they’re not going to allow this bend to occur. You’d want to ask your students, what are the situations in life that come up where you have to adapt, where there’s a bend in the road and you have to make it better? You can also ask them, what are some things that you do not adapt to? What are some things that no matter what, you’re not going to change and accommodate? That would be really interesting to hear what kids of different ages come up with.
Steve Fouts 13:58
Yeah, that’s good. I feel like we are slowly evolving into the essential question for this conversation, and I don’t know what you have ready. Read what you have, but I want to see if I can maybe adapt it after it’s shared.
Dan Fouts 14:21 – Essential Question
Okay. Well, what we came up with beforehand is this one, how do you know when to adapt your goals in new situations?
Steve Fouts 14:33
Okay, I like that. How do we know when to adapt our goals? That’s a tough one, because it’s a reductionist process. It doesn’t matter what age you are. We have goals, some of which we don’t make for ourselves. Some of us just reset and say, that wasn’t even that important to me. It forces us to prioritize what’s really important when we have failures. We often talk about how we should never quit, that we should also always persevere and never let our dreams die. We pride ourselves on talking that way. But, if we’re not listening to what reality is telling us, and we fail to notice these bends in the road, then we may miss opportunities to find our true path, and our true passion.
Dan Fouts 15:46
You’re coming back to the claim that you have to seize on opportunities to change your goals to meet current realities, new situations. Back to the essential question. It’s hard to know when you should adapt your goals. If you really don’t know, you have to take it on faith. I have to change my goals in this situation. I don’t know if it’s going to work out, but I’m going to try it. That’s tough. You can’t live as if you can continue along a path that is not healthy for you. Right?
Steve Fouts 16:30
I think goals is a good hitching post for students to understand this quote. It would be good to get them to talk about their goals, and how they’ve changed throughout their lives. I’ll never forget, in third grade I took a Career Services survey. All I cared about in third grade was basketball, and every other sport, so I answered all my questions, honestly. The results came back saying I was going to be a sports recreation director. I remember going up to the teacher and saying, do we have to do this? She laughed. I had no idea why it was so funny, but I was so taken aback by it. Well, I guess that’s what I’m fit for. This is what I should try to accomplish. Of course, that changed a million times after that point.
Steve Fouts 17:38
I want to figure out which side I agree with more, the claim or the counterclaim. I have to go with the claim. I’m a Helen Keller fan. I think adapting is the way toward happiness. Some people are going to criticize me and say that I’m resigned and not following through. I would come back and say, I’m not going to pretend to know what I’m good at, or where I’m going to end up. I just have to listen to what’s working and what’s not. Adapting is the easiest thing. I shouldn’t say it’s easy. I should say, I’m not afraid of it.
Dan Fouts 18:28
Yeah, we share this trait. We’re very adaptable. We struggle when we have to stick with a goal no matter what. We’re always changing goals to meet new situations. So I definitely see Helen Keller’s wisdom here, but I also see the counterclaim. Sometimes too much change is unstable, and that’s not healthy either. There’s a balance. Every kid is going to have a different balance. They’ll definitely have a take on this quote, though. They will talk about their personal experiences. I’m confident of that.
Steve Fouts 19:14
Before we wrap up, this will be a fun quote to hear student’s articulate Helen Keller’s claim. This is a longer quote, right? I don’t know how many words it is, probably 15 to 20. Most quotes average 10 to 11 words. At the beginning of the conversation you could encourage a contest to figure out what Helen Keller is saying in as few words as possible, while still capturing its meaning. I think that would be a really good exercise.
Dan Fouts 20:04
Bend in the road is an interesting metaphor that opens up possibilities for multiple perspectives. Well, this was a lot of fun. Helen Keller has made another appearance here. There’s another conversation plan on Helen Keller in the Teach Different library that’s really good on teamwork. Let me just say the quote one more time. “A bend in the road is not the end of the road… Unless you fail to make the turn.” Great wisdom from Helen Keller.
Dan Fouts 20:55
Thanks, everybody. We hope you’re walking away feeling energized by some great ideas, and have a sense of confidence that you too can master the art and science of conversations to make a lasting impact. We at Teach Different are dedicated to supporting you along that journey. Please visit teachdifferent.com to join our Community of Educators for additional resources and engaging discussion among fellow teachers and administrators, free for 30 days. We’ll see you there and next time on the Teach Different Podcast, take care!