Patrons and Clients, IV

“Once we know and state the rules,” I asked on Wednesday,

is it easier or harder to evaluate and change them?  What’s the real relationship between factories and rules?

 I hoped the answer to that first question was “easier” … and it was, at least on Wednesday, at least with my “problem” class.

While I was at my pre-meeting on Tuesday, my students were working with a substitute teacher – the first time this year – and Ms. C., the substitute, had never been at our school before.  I was apprehensive after the struggle I described in Tuesday’s post.  Would my “problem” class take their assignment seriously?  Would they follow our guiding principles and represent the “Latin Family” well?

Apparently I need to go to more meetings!

Ms. C enjoyed her day; my students enjoyed her; and the quality of work they completed exceeded my hopes.  I was delighted – and I was also happy with the new form of transition we tried Wednesday at the beginning of the “problem” class.  We talked briefly about why it might help, then took several deep, cleansing breaths … and with our last breath, we “breathed out” the lingering problems from earlier classes.

We added a new ritual, a new part of the game.  And it really helped.  N., who says he has a “really boring” first-period class, called it a big help.  To quote Debbie’s Google+ response again, it illustrates

… the importance of giving children time to shift gears. We can help children with this transition time by helping them understand what they feel, reminding them of the change, perhaps verbalizing the expectations of the household they are going to, and, perhaps most importantly in this case, telling them that it is ok that the rules are different, challenging and confusing perhaps, but still ok. Just different.
The goal, really, is about empowering the children, giving them the awareness and the tools to cope with the challenges and to make the most of the situation.

So many of my students feel very disempowered. Knowing N, I bet his “really boring” first-period class bores him because it’s too easy for him.  When you can “do the work in your sleep,” but the Authority Figure doesn’t seem to notice or care, it’s easy to feel disempowered … and disempowered easily turns to frustrated and sad and angry.

For all its flaws, Roman clientēla built a personal connection between patrōnus  and cliēns that kept poor clients’ very real disempowerment from turning to frustration and rage.  The daily interaction at the salūtātiō was a game with a complex, unspoken ruleset, but the game worked as designed to keep Roman aristocrats in unchallenged authority for centuries. Factory-model structures do encourage dependency as clientēla did, but they don’t really have a structure to manage the disempowerment and the frustration.

And that brings us again to my last question from yesterday:

What’s the real relationship between factories and rules?

As I sat down to revise and publish this post, I found Troy Roddy’s Google+ share  of Mark Crotty’s blog post:

Until recently, schools and teachers maintained power and control primarily because they were the means of access. Naturally, schools grew in forms that established this sense of control in both overt and more subtle ways. Departmentalization, classroom design, curricular organization, age groupings, standardization, rigid assessment criteria, library collections—each is hierarchical and prescriptive.

Now, however, the hierarchies are tumbling, the prescriptions being shredded. Literacy simply ain’t just the three R’s any more. Posing the right questions is just as important—maybe more important—than being able to answer the same old ones. Consumption still matters, but upon digestion one must be ready to contribute and collaborate. Connect with bigger experts than the ones at the front of the class, and put yourself out there for anyone to view and critique. And it’s all cheap and easy. The control has begun to shift, and learning is becoming the ultimate choose-your-own-adventure book.
I don’t think anyone could say it more clearly.  (But Brendan, I apologize!  You raised most of these points in your recent comments, but  I need more space, more time than I have available here, to respond properly.  Expect a real response Friday or Saturday.)

As we move beyond factory structures, I’m reaching back to pre-industrial interactions and trying to imagine post-industrial ones.  That way, let’s hope, my students will feel free to participate joyfully and fully in a new, different game.

Is it harder or easier to play a game when the rules are still being developed?

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Published in: on October 11, 2012 at 10:11 am  Comments (1)  

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  1. […] to the rulesets and games and patron-client relationships we considered on Wednesday and Thursday.  Part of the ruleset is that teachers ritually complain. “It’s so pointless,” […]


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