It’s All Connected, V

When I was a young teacher, I knew a Ms. X and Mr. Y who firmly believed that phases of the moon govern teenagers’ behavior.  “You just wait,” they would say, “till the full moon.  They get wild when the moon is full.”  Secure in this Lunar Theory of Teenage Behavior, Ms. X and Mr. Y found abundant evidence to “prove” it and serenely ignored all contravening or complicating data.  Sadly, I never thought to ask whether Ms. X and Mr. Y themselves were governed by the phases of the moon, or whether one magically outgrows lunar influence at age 20 or 21.

As Brendan pointed out in a comment on Monday, there’s a danger in looking for – and finding – false, superficial connections:

And yet, there are real connections between things, and the idea that everything is connected facilitates cognitive integration of ideas, memories, and meanings.  In fact, there are at least two layers of that everything is connected thing — one is that things are connected in one’s mind in some way, and separately, there’s the idea that things are connected in the world at large.  Sometimes the perception of significance is more a cognitive experience than an external relationship.

The moon was full this week, and there was a lunar eclipse.  But is that why “they” were “wild” on Monday and Tuesday?  Or did the current Ms. X and Mr. Y, subscribing to a lunar theory, greet their students with fearful expectations of “wildness?”  Before my students ever came to me those days, had someone else  planted a seed of expectation that bloomed into a bitter harvest of the very thing they’d hoped to prevent?  That’s probably a real connection, unlike the phases of the moon.

N, who had been so angry at me earlier in the week, was calm – and apologetic, and on time – on Thursday.  “My dad has been out of town,” she told me, “but he’s back, and that’s why I’m on time today.”  That’s almost certainly a real connection.  N,  worried about being punished for tardies, also worried about her grade and worried about her dad’s reaction … and the worry led to tension, and the tension made everything worse – including her interactions with me.  And I’d been dealing with extended-family issues.  My own worries had led to tension, and that tension intersected with N’s tension – and any other tension in 26 other teenagers.

Debbie said it well on Monday:

a phrase that I “connected” years ago and continue to use today is another of those humbling thoughts: “Everything you say and do and don’t say and don’t do is a lesson”  … every action we do in the presence of a child (or that they hear about) teaches them something about the world, about relationships, about themselves. EVERYTHING.
That is SO scary, if you are if you want to be a good role-model.
Imagine, how you stand, how/when you sigh, every single syllable that comes out of your mouth, the timing of eye contact, a smile, a frown, a cough… everything.
Everything is connected and our actions are having a big impact on the next generation. Our every action is a flap of a butterfly wing!

And most of the comments on Wednesday’s Google+ post clustered around issues of power and control.  As Debbie noted,

Rules disempower. Rules get twisted and become the goal and we lose sight of the purpose for which they were intended.

Our society today is fighting against rules and are struggling to take back personal power – the power that we have handed over to authorities, government, law enforcement, etc. Slowly we are trying to regain our social network, resolving issues ourselves and (hopefully) taking responsibility for our own actions without needing an outside force to make it happen.

Currently, in our “factory-based society” we won’t not do something unless there is a law against it. We push the boundaries, we ignore etiquette and respect because there is nobody around to catch us… and then we complain about the laws and the enforcement people. This same process takes place within the classroom and throughout our society.

Thursday was a positive-feeling day in the small world of my classroom, but a negative, conflict-filled day in the school at large.  And the online conversation focused on balance.  As Debbie wisely noted,

My early childhood training taught us that balance was vital — providing time for children to sit as well as be active; quiet time and play time; outdoor time and indoor time.
But that is just on the surface. We also, I believe, need to provide a balance of teacher-directed and child-directed; of free-flowing creativity along with “follow directions” types of tasks….
And now as I write this I think of balance re: good days and bad days. Perhaps we need those frustrating days to help us recognize what works and what doesn’t, to remind us to step back and check in on our intentions to see if our actions are in tune with our goals. Perhaps it is necessary to remind us that our path is only one of many meeting up between the four walls for this brief time together and to see and respect the other stories, the other paths.

Debbie’s metaphor of intersecting paths is helping me see the deeper connections in my own life, my students’ lives, my colleagues’ lives, our shared lives.  It reinforces for me the vital importance of joyful community and shared learning, of time to reflect, of valuing each other.  Yet factory-model schools, in our desperate quest to “cover everything” and “raise those test scores,” grasp for tools like the book described here, shoving community, shared learning,  and reflection to the side.

How can we build joyful community and deep connections in an environment where “just do it this way and don’t ask questions” becomes the guiding paradigm?

Published in: on November 30, 2012 at 11:00 am  Comments (1)  

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  1. […] to Friday’s post, Brendan made a profound point on […]

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