If you live in a factory-world, where the goal is zero defects and correct process is its own justification, it’s annoying and troublesome when imperfect people mess up your perfect systems. If you live in a joyful community, imperfections are less bothersome. You know they’ll happen, and you can address them, but they don’t ruin everything the way they do in a factory-world. Or a factory mindset.
I thought about that several times on a long, tiring Tuesday … and I thought about how the factory mindset encourages fearfulness and lack of ownership, fretting and frustration. I kept feeling grateful that I wasn’t feeling the old, familiar factory-world emotions that swirled around me.
“Do you think,” several of Ms. X asked fretfully, “that I should buy that supplemental insurance from the meeting yesterday?” For me, I said, the answer was no; I’d looked at the coverage, looked at the premiums, and it wasn’t a good fit. (A colleague who used to sell insurance agreed, but that’s a story for another day. We also agreed that there was no need to feel guilty eating the leftover pizza the agents had provided for our “meeting.”) “But what if?” asked One Ms. X. “And what if? And what if? And besides, I want to get paid for that sick leave when I retire! It’s way too precious to waste on getting sick.”
By the time Ms. X and I had that conversation, it was the end of the day. For our joyful community, it had been fairly productive. The Latin II classes started out with a “Pairs Make the Sentence” activity – given an English sentence and the partēs prīncipālēs of the relevant Latin words, they worked as pairs to make an equivalent Latin sentence, then checked their work against a downloadable key I’d sent out to their Edmodo group. We went on to read the story of poor Cnaeus’ misadventure with the horse, then small groups practiced distinguishing familiar noun and verb forms with our “soon to be famous” Analytic Hand Signals. There was even time for each class to begin exploring Project ORBIS, which they’ll be using in our next story-creation project. After lunch, the Latin IV group continued apace with their timeline of De Bello Gallico Book I.
Was it a perfect day? No, not from the zero-defects factory mentality. There was a rather petulant email about the scheduled dress-code sweep, which “had to” be rescheduled … because (gasp!!) students had found out about it! (What’s the purpose of the sweep, I wondered – to punish or to fix problems? If the goal is “just” compliance with the code, why would it matter if students found out? But we’ve talked about that before, both here and on Google+ .)
There were even some “defects” in my little world. A few Latin II groups were still not ready to present their first set of projects; some got distracted during the reading process; a few neglected the key and self-check part of the opening activity; some still don’t see how feeling sentence structure can help them be better readers and writers. But there’s plenty of time and space for them to grow into deeper understanding. Besides, it’s better to make a mistake and learn from it than live in the fragile paralysis of no mistakes, but no accomplishments … or at least that’s my perspective today.
When you leave the factory mindset behind, it starts to look faintly ridiculous, like those childhood photos of yourself where you think “How could I possibly have worn those clothes?” But at the time, those stripes and plaids were fashionable (somehow!!) … and when you’re in the midst of the factory, the siren song of zero defects is hard to resist. Ms. X has made large, laminated posters of “everything to cover” in “the” curriculum of her classes; she even put the words “I can” at the start of every objective, because she knows she’s supposed to have “I can” – style learning goals posted. “It’s all about covering my butt,” she admitted proudly, when I told her I was impressed by the posters. I wonder where she’ll find space for “I will” statements, if and when she “has to” start posting those.
Zero defects … and compliance. If you take the factory mindset down to its essence, is that what you find? “I can” – style learning targets and “I will” – style criteria for success are designed, no doubt, to empower students and teachers, to shift the focus from teaching to learning … but old habits, old mindsets, old attitudes die hard, and the lure of the factory is strong. I can imagine future “Classroom Walkthrough Observation Checklists” that call for posted “I will” statements, and I can imagine the angry, resentful, disempowered conversations by Ms. X and Mr. Y over lunch or copies.
I can … but I choose not to. I will focus on other things instead. The power of “I will” is one powerful, if unintended lesson from those videos over the weekend. As Debbie put it yesterday,
I learned long ago that if I want to ensure that I do something all I need to do is say it out loud: I am .. or I will…. Without this commitment to an idea it stays as this vague vision of possibilities. I have also learned to be very selective about which ideas I commit to, either verbally or in written form.
For me, it is about honour and integrity. If I don’t follow through then I have lied to myself and to whomever I made the commitment. And so I choose: is this just an idea, an option, or is it something that I believe in and want to make happen?
I will ….. walk the talk.
What will we do today to build and strengthen our joyful community? How will we deal with the challenges we face?