Expect the Unexpected, I

When I clicked the “Publish” button Friday morning, I had – I thought – a clear picture of what I’d be doing, both on Friday and over the weekend.  The Latin II classes would be working toward their first Minor Assessment of the new reporting period; the Latin IV and AP group would be doing some more reading, then thinking about their upcoming Minor Assessment; and we had a busy, productive weekend planned with the family.

Of course you know the old saying about life and happening and other plans.

Friday’s classes actually went as expected.  The Latin II classes did start working on the Minor Assessment.  The IV’s and AP’s did read, and they did start thinking about their Minor Assessment.  The IV’s read Pliny the Elder on dolphins, to contrast with Pliny the Younger’s famous letter , while the AP’s read a phenomenal amount of Aeneid Book I.  There were a few interruptions: juniors had to meet and complete “pre-coding” for a required test they’ll be taking tomorrow, so one morning class was extended and the other was shortened.  X and Y, who are definitely dating, had to be reminded (more than once) to control their volume levels and their physical proximity.  C,  a very thoughtful Latin II student, wanted to know why his grade was a low A rather than a higher A, and what he needed to do to improve in the future.  Nothing serious, though … until Saturday.

That’s when my daughter was supposed to go to a Really Important Thing … but she was too sick to move and spent the whole day in bed.  By mid-morning Sunday, I started feeling sick too.  Those carefully-laid plans fell apart, as carefully-laid plans so often do.

But the unexpected changes brought an oddly welcome grace.  It seems my daughter really needed a restful weekend at home; her body told her, and she listened.  My son needed a quiet, restful time too – he’d been sick earlier in the week – so we watched a movie, and he played some of his favorite games, and I did some reading on Saturday.  Everyone but me was too tired to go to church on Sunday, so I went to the early service and had another unexpected grace: exactly the words I didn’t know I needed to hear, about bearing good fruit in challenging circumstances.  By the time I got home, mid-morning on Sunday, the tiredness and dizziness were beginning – so I had an unexpectedly quiet day, safe in the awareness that everything was planned and prepared for classes on Monday.  And I woke up this morning feeling well.

When the unexpected happens – and, to be fair, it always happens – you can choose several different responses.  You can try to power through, holding to the original plan even though it’s clearly not going to work, like the stereotypic Man Who Won’t Stop For Directions, but who’s using a decades-old road map.  You can give up, curl up, and feel sorry for yourself.  You can get mad at the world, at circumstances, at yourself.  Or you can embrace the unexpected, look for the joy … and find unexpected treasure in the midst of the unexpected, possibly unpleasant surprise that came your way.

I really enjoyed my quiet, peaceful weekend in the end!  Apparently it was just what we all needed.

Debbie had a wonderful insight in her Google+ response to Friday’s post:

“Forming, storming, norming, and performing” -> without awareness and commitment the “storming” stage can drag us off our path and away from joyful community. Knowing, accepting, and respecting the storming stage invites us to engage in the process, moving us forward.

Whether you’re planning a class, a weekend, a trip, or a whole life, don’t we all go through all of those stages?  I was very much in the forming stage when I wrote Friday’s post, and I thought everything would work out as planned … except I knew, in my heart, that it wouldn’t, couldn’t, probably shouldn’t work out exactly as planned.  The storming was more on my daughter’s part than mine; she had really wanted to do That Thing on Saturday, and it hurt to be too sick to participate – but she was also too sick to storm very much.  I don’t think I stormed over my own sickness that much, either; it was too tiring, and all I wanted to do was sleep – though I did storm a bit at a friend of mine who wanted me to have done something on Sunday, something for which I simply didn’t have time or energy.  We know each other well, though, and we resolved the situation pretty quickly.  For everyone, the storming turned into the kind of norming where you accept the unexpected, make space for it, even welcome it … and then comes the performing that takes account of this new normal.

One problem with factory-model schooling – factory-model thinking – is that it enshrines the plan and sees “deviations” as suspect.  The logical extreme, of course, is the scripted curriculum from which the teacher may not divert, even if students don’t understand, or need more time, or have already grasped the concept.  As Daniel Pink points out in To Sell Is Human, the sales script was a 20th-century innovation … and in a slowly-changing environment, one where the seller has the information and the buyer has the need, script-based selling – and script-based teaching – won’t work that badly.  But today’s world is very far from that world – and all the storming in the world, all the carefully-prepared scripts, threats, and promises, won’t bring back a stable, 20th-century world.

When you’re building a joyful community, it’s OK, even necessary, to go off-script, embrace the unexpected things that terrify a script-based world and script-clutching people.  What will I need to do today, each day, to help Ms. X, Mr. Y, and my script-clutching students let go of their scripts, too?

Published in: on March 4, 2013 at 11:26 am  Leave a Comment  

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