Steps on a Journey, IV

While I was drafting yesterday’s post, my phone gave that Special Indicator that means a new email message has arrived.  I’ve only set up one account for push notifications, but it seemed odd for the school account to be active that late in the evening.  When I had a moment, I read the email – forwarded from a very irate Power – about multiple incidents in which state-mandated testing had been interrupted by ringing cell phones.  Not students’ phones, either, but the phones of adult (?) employees tasked with giving and supervising tests.

Is it ironic that I read that message on a phone screen, forwarded to me from someone’s mobile device?

The Power in question, whom I’ve known for years, was understandably furious.  Another Power, having received the message, felt duty-bound to forward it Just In Case.  I’m sure other Powers did more; in fact, rumor had it that “lots of” schools now required teachers administering Such Tests to surrender their own cell phones when picking up test materials, then get them back when materials were returned.  The stakes were too high and the teachers too untrustworthy, it seems, to do otherwise.

What a perfect example of factory-thinking!  The whole situation makes perfect sense if you put on the factory lenses.  Mr, Such-And-So or Ms. Whoever, angry about being asked (or told) to Give A Test, “accidentally forgot” to turn off the phone, which “just happened” to ring.  If Ms. Whoever even thought about the implications – which is doubtful – she probably assumed she’d be removed from the testing room, talked to firmly, sent off to “do her work” somewhere else, like a “bad, lazy” child in In-School Suspension.  But it’s theoretically possible that dozens of students might have to retake their lengthy high-stakes tests, that angry (and terrified) Powers might be making dozens of phone calls to dozens of aggrieved, infuriated parents. All because Ms. Whoever or Mr. Such-And-So “accidentally forgot to remember” to do what basic courtesy would require anyway.

Do you turn your phone’s ringer on in quiet, public places?  My students keep theirs on vibrate at school, and so do I.  It’s not that hard!  While being trained to Give Those Tests, Ms. Whoever surely saw the same PowerPoint slide I saw … the one that says “turn your cell phone off and put it away in a desk drawer or other safe place.”

If I were a Power, I’d be furious, too.  But that rumored response – the temporary confiscation of phones from “those bad, lazy teachers” – only exacerbates the underlying issue.  Angry and resentful at being “treated like a baby,” Ms. X and Mr. Y won’t have phones to ring during testing … but they will find other ways to get back at their Powers for being so “mean and unreasonable.”  Angry and resentful, they’ll treat students in ways that breed more anger and resentment, then get even more furious when their Powers don’t “deal with those awful kids” fast enough or stringently enough for Ms. X or Mr. Y’s liking.

The pain-punishment cycle in a nutshell.

Meanwhile, my formerly “problematic” class took their final exam with few issues.  There was a bit of low-level grumbling at the beginning, and E “accidentally” found N’s paper on the floor and “just happened” to put it on her desk, under her own Individual Response paper.  Ms. X … well, you know what Ms. X would have done, right?  “E,” I said, “I’m going to draw a line right here, after question 10, because that’s the part I’ll read to determine your score on this section.”  E briefly tried to argue, with something even sillier than the her first claim. “No, E, look at the rubric,” I said.  “I don’t have to have an answer to every question to determine the score, but I do need  your answers for the individual response.”  Within minutes E was busy reading the passage – and using her allowed technological resources – the vocabulary app on her phone, which was on silent, by the way – much more appropriately than Ms. Whoever had!

Introducing yesterday’s post on Google+, I asked rather plaintively,

If we’re all on a journey, every community is temporary; in the end, we move on, and in the Very End, our lives are over and we’re no longer part of the communities we once participated in.  But the factory-dream is of permanence on the one hand, shiny newness on the other.  How will we reconcile these competing visions of what life is and should be?  And how do you know when it’s time to take the next step on your own journey?

Debbie, as always, had profound Wisdom to share:

I do know that sometimes the decision is made for you – outside forces will say that your time here is over, or the challenges and “hints” will get harder and louder until you have to leave in order to save your sanity.

Regardless of the situation you are in, if you know what you value and strive to live up to these expectations then the rewards are always there. Intrinsic rewards are what keeps one moving forward, even if paddling upstream with no paddles! When you feel the passion slipping away or that you are giving in to outside forces and losing sight of your beliefs then it is time for change. The change might be to move on or it might just mean taking the time to rekindle your internal fire/passion/beliefs…or perhaps it means having a new focus for the same-old-same-old.

And Brendan reminded us that, in a networked age, leaving isn’t as clear-cut as it once was:

 There’s potentially less of a black-and-white “I’m in this community for this period of my life” and “then I’m not.”  People can remain in contact in some form more easily then ever (when they choose to), but at the same time from day to day or moment to moment, one can essentially be “in” a different community.

A good example is the ruleset-switching issue of students going from class to class, each a different world, a different configuration of people, rules, and a different representative of Powers that Be (that’d be the teacher, positional authority and all.)….

That leads to questions about how to discover and manage participation in all of these things.  Even many of these MOOC courses these days, even though they end, develop communities that wish to stay in existence beyond the end of the class….

In a sense, that is similar to the ideal of the Latin family.  But that’s a foreign idea when it comes to the factory, when the second you finish your enforced time with a teacher and a set of students, that’s the end.  And… cynically, but too often realistically, very likely the end of remembering more than a random snippet from your time there.

One thing the factory did do is open up a bit larger world for many students, compared to simply living on their farm or what not.  But that larger world of the classroom is often still a prison or a cave, relative to what life can consist of in general.  After all, it’s a series of steps on a journey, personally and in terms of the evolution of human institutions.

The threads connect somehow, and the next steps of the journey beckon all of us, even Ms. Whoever in her thoughtlessness and Powers in their reactive anger.  Where will the road take us, and what adventures await us on the way?

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Published in: on May 31, 2013 at 10:11 am  Comments (1)  

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  1. […] I focused on it, I didn’t use the word.  It seems I’ve only used the word upstream in one other post … and that was a quote from my friend Debbie, who talked about how “Intrinsic rewards […]


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