Endings and Beginnings, V

It’s a “required teacher workday” in my face-to-face teaching world, a day when students stay home and teachers … do a number of highly significant tasks.  Back in August, important meetings were scheduled for today, a half day of planning and implementation for the new statewide curricula and a half day of school-level tasks.  Over the fall, as stress and complaint levels grew, the planning and implementation meeting got rescheduled and the school-level tasks got scaled back.  I’ll be spending a couple of hours in a meeting – one intended to plan for the next planning and implementation meeting – but will also have some welcome time to work on ending and beginning tasks.

“I hope it snows and snows!” said Ms. X, “and I hope we get to stay home on Friday.”  As much as Ms. X complains about lack of time, as much as she values planning and preparation with her words, I find that odd.  “No, no, no!” said Mr. Y, “I need the time to get ready for the new semester!”  I reminded Ms. X that if there was enough snow, if The Powers That Be did have to cancel the day, it would have to be rescheduled for some other time.  “Do you really think They would do that to us?”  she asked, astonished.  “I don’t care,” she said, “I still want it to snow.”

Poor Ms. X!  It didn’t snow … at least not here.  So Ms. X and Mr. Y will spend the day working hard – or hardly working – on various tasks, then complain about how they “had to” spend all day at school, or how they “didn’t have enough time” … or some combination.  And about how “hard” it is to “do grades” at the end of a semester, and … am I being fair to Ms. X and Mr. Y?  Or am I allowing their past behavior to shape my attitude to such a degree that I can’t imagine them changing?  Am I dismissing them, in advance, from participation in any form of joyful community, assuming – just because of what they say and how they say it – that they wouldn’t be interested?

Joyful community, as I said to each new class yesterday afternoon, is hard work.  Especially when it’s a joyful learning community that builds meaningful things together.  You can focus on one thing (like surface joy, or enjoyment) to the detriment of another (like learning or community).  It’s the hardest, but best work I can think of.

On Google+ yesterday, Debbie had sage advice:

 it easier – or harder still – to confront tough questions in a joyful community?  My guess is that if you do indeed have a joyful community then you invite the tough questions. Don’t you think?
I guess if your joyful community is a “fake one”, one full of people satisfied with the status quo and their role in it, being yes-men, doing what they are supposed to do then the tough questions aren’t welcome.

And then I start to wonder about the different directions we can look at this: we have the “don’t rock the boat mentality” and we have the “rock the boat people” – those wanting to shake things up, to challenge the old ways … and then you have the joyful community that sees change as an element of life,  a process that is not about rocking the boat but rather simply about growth and development, about transforming experiences and the knowledge from the Fire of Truth into greater Wisdom.

Perhaps we have to be in the “rock the boat” group until we get that joyful community forming. It’s hard to be in that last category while others are still in the first one.

For Ms. X and Mr. Y, that factory-model boat is clearly getting uncomfortable – that’s why they long for a snow day or a delayed start or … something!  But they’re scared to rock it, scared of the Powers That Be, scared of falling out of the uncomfortable boat into terrifying, unknown, possibly more uncomfortable waters.  Scared to ask … but scared not to ask … and scared to look at, or act on, responses to new questions.  Brendan noted,

This is the plight, not just of the parent advocate, but of the teachers, the students, even the various reformers and Powers That Be.  Nobody is ultimately in charge, and it seems everyone is either looking to change things, or protect their position against inevitable changes coming from all sides, including the minds and expectations of the students themselves.

This situation transcends traditional distinctions between K-12 and higher education, as can be seen from the overlap of voices here on G+.  Ultimately, the reason many students care about their grades in school is the opportunity to get a college degree, and both K-12 teachers and college professors express frustration with their “inability to teach” or students’ “inability to learn,” unless they’re actively innovating.  And if they’re actively innovating, they’re running up against these questions, and looking for answers.

How does anyone involved explain the situation to anyone else?  How does a teacher explain the situation to students, and how does a student explain the situation to their teachers, or parents?  Improving the feedback loops would help.  Perhaps parent-teacher-student conferences should have trained mediators who try to break down everyone’s interests, with an awareness of survey responses.

The idea of surveying people, year after year, and never doing anything with the results is ridiculous.

When everyone’s dissatisfied, but everyone’s afraid to say anything, it’s easy for The System to chug along like always.  It’s easy, though uncomfortable, to stay in the boat, to settle for surface-level “innovations,” hand out those surveys, “code” the results, and stop there.  Short of the boat itself collapsing, what will it take to get Ms. X and Mr. Y to dip a toe, a hand, a whole body in those post-factory waters?

Published in: on January 18, 2013 at 12:28 pm  Comments (1)  

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  1. […] came (first) a committee meeting whose main agenda item was to revisit, yet again, responses to that survey I mentioned months ago and (then) a “train the trainers” meeting for the new student information […]

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