Some friends of mine had an idea yesterday – a brilliant idea, I think, but one that would require a bit of legwork. To make it happen, they’d need to get permission to use a Copyrighted Thing. After several emails and a Google search or two, we found the contact information they’d need, and now they’re waiting to hear back from some Powers That Be.
That’s the short version of the stor. The long version includes their anger (understandable!) about poor website design – a “Contact” page with no contact information. It also includes the Hidden Stuff that was triggered: old feelings of inadequacy, anger, sadness, shame, even fear. More important things, in the end, than any response they get from Powers That Be.
If I’d been in a hurry, I wouldn’t have noticed. If I hadn’t been attuned, hadn’t valued our friendship, I might have just ended the conversation. And then I would have missed the path, too … because their paths and mine are similar.
Inspired, she says, by my post yesterday, Emily talks about listening for the hidden message in her post today. Go ahead and read it now! And think about the power of labels and roles, ones that get imposed and ones we choose. It’s hard for the “good, helpful, smart one” (my own long-time label) to be other than “perfect,” to take time for self-care, to ask for advice in difficulties. It’s hard for the “bad, lazy one” to expend effort, at least when Ms. X and Mr. Y are watching. And it’s hard for Ms. X, the “rigorous teacher with really good lesson plans,” to step out of her label, try something new, let go of those perfectly-crafted plans and embrace the teachable moment.
When I was a child, my mother was known to all her friends as “the perfect hostess.” Her dinner parties were legendary for the excellent food, the perfect arrangement of guests, the conversations – for everything. But she never had time to enjoy the gatherings herself; she was always too busy making sure everything would be “perfect” for the guests.
I clearly remember the last one she ever gave, too … when I was about 10 or 11. She never gave another, and she never seemed to miss the perfect ones, either. There were other gatherings after that, but they were more informal, less “perfect” in their planning. Sometimes she even let others bring a dish! And we started participating in a regular neighborhood potluck celebration that had always conflicted, before, with a “perfect hostess” gathering.
Something – a whole series of things – led my mother to let go of perfection and embrace joyful community. And that changed everything. Free from the burden of perfection, she was able to relax and enjoy. It was a powerful lesson that took many years to sink in!
Factory-model schools, when they aren’t trying to solve deficits, often fall into my mother’s trap of perfection: the perfect resource, the perfect lesson plan, the perfect set of test scores must be out there, we think. Once found, it should be replicable and scalable in a perfect, 20th-century way. But that static perfection – like Mother’s “perfect” dinner parties – is an elusive goal indeed. And it will break your heart – and make you miss lots of joyful community along the way – if you set it up as the sole measure of your accomplishments.
Responding to yesterday’s post on Google+, Emily added a metaphor of quests to the theme of journeys and dining together:
I think of old style quests, when people had to find the right path. They would stop at homes/castles and be hosted with hospitality. People would meet friends they didn’t even know they had.
Anyway, think about this. In classes, whether or not you come in as friends, or at least respected peers, the goal is to leave as friends, or at least respected peers with understanding and learning.
These are people with whom you might share a path….or they might help you find yours. We are all heroes and heroines, but we can’t do it alone. No hero can do it alone. How do we eat as a quest group? What happens as we find our own paths and find ones we share with others?
Diana built on that notion:
At the end of the day, you have to find your own path. It drives me CRAZY when people, especially my students, are on a path because it is where someone told them to be there. Students started coming to me for advice recently…especially after some stupid career quiz told them they should go into agriculture. >.<
Anyway, I always push my students to THINK. Thinking helps them realize where they want to be and what path they want to be on. When students think, they do begin to find kindred spirits as well. Then, real learning, real discussions happen.
And Barry added that
… one must pull students to think, by asking carefully crafted questions that pull them into the thinking process.
I’m sure Debbie’s comment inspired my memories of my mother’s “perfect” and “imperfect” parties:
Comparing to the dinner party it is similar to having a sit-down meal with a specific menu and the food arriving on your plate – you either eat it or go hungry. A more relaxed event is perhaps a “theme-based” meal, with someone deciding what foods will be available. And then there is the pot-luck, with people bringing their favourites to share; recipes are shared, feedback is provided, and the mix of foods is always interesting.
What do we need to do – today and every day – to focus on quests, themed meals, and potlucks instead of the mirage of the “perfect” dinner party? And how will we invite others to leave the perfect highway – the sterile one leading nowhere – join us on the joyful learning community path and adventure?