Wrapping Things Up, II

The last day … and the first day.  The last for students, with “early release” for them, and then two hours for teachers and other staff members to work on all the things that must happen before a factory-model school closes down for its summer break.  There are reports to complete, classrooms to clean, stuff to pack, signatures on the all-important Checkout Form, the underlying tasks that generate those signatures.  Sometimes there’s a feeling of “hurry up and wait” when bunches of people, having all finished a given task at around the same time, are waiting – patiently or not-so-patiently – for the one and only Power who can sign off on their completion.

But amidst the hurrying and waiting, there’s also the odd gift of time.  For once, Ms. X and Mr. Y were “done with grades” on time, though they’d neglected to notify the person who needed to know about that.  So end-of-year reports and records, often a frantic nightmare of rushing, should be relatively smooth this year.  Even during the “field day” activities, you could feel the gift of time.  Our students who came – more, I think, than Ms. X and Mr. Y had expected – were able to play dodgeball or basketball if they wanted, or they could sit and chat with friends and watch the games.  Faculty members rotated into the gym to observe and participate, if they wanted to, and I was glad to see that the Three Basketball-Playing Guys on the faculty joined in to one of the games.  I was also glad they invited me to join them, but as I told them, there were “at least two problems” with me and basketball yesterday.  First, I’m old and out of shape, so I’d be more of a liability than an asset.  Second, I wasn’t wearing appropriate shoes.  And third (yes, third of two), after what I did to my foot a week or so ago, I didn’t need to be running and changing direction.

But the feeling of joyful community was there, in that old gymnasium, among the players and the spectators.  Well, most of the time – some words were exchanged between Two Problematic Boys, and  One Ms. X “had to” go running over to them to prevent a fight … or so she thought.

One Ms. X was upset about that, too, at lunch time, and she blamed the “disorganization” and the Powers That Be.  “They should have made All Of Those Kids do something, not just sit and watch,” she complained bitterly.  I had images of her upbraiding “bad, lazy students” for not having “enough fun” on the Last Day, but I didn’t want to say anything to her.  She was also concerned about the published schedule, which indicated that students would be returning to their homeroom classes after lunch.  “But I don’t have anything for them to do!” she insisted, “and my classroom is all torn up, and they can’t even watch a video.  What were They thinking?  Those kids need to stay in the gym all day!”

Other Ms. X was more concerned about the early dismissal for students, which specifically did not apply to school-system employees.  “Do you think They will send an email so We can leave early, too?”  she asked.  No, I thought, for “at least two” reasons: first, non-school-based employees had things planned for the afternoon; second, schools need the time to do their end-of-year business; and third (it had been a long day by then), that’s not the sort of thing that would occur to any Powers That Be who could send such a missive.  One Ms. X suggested that, if such an email never came, it might be because “people were bad” during the school year.  “Well, I was good,” sniffed Other Ms. X … and that’s when I left the room.  I don’t really want to know what else she had to say.

But I did think Ms. X’s notion of rewards for being good was interesting – and it stuck in my mind all day.  It was oddly connected with our Book Group conversation Monday evening, as we talked about the “Elder Son” section of the Henri Nouwen book we’re reading.  For Nouwen, the Elder Son in the parable represents that all-too-human tendency to compare our own best with others’ worst, and then to sit in judgment, to reject community and connections with those we’ve labeled as bad or less worthy.  When One Ms. X labels her students, when Other Ms. X labels nameless, faceless coworkers at Some Other School, or, for that matter, when I label One Ms. X or Other Ms. X, don’t we all step out of joyful community – the feast prepared by the loving father in celebration of his wayward son’s “return from the dead” – and into a cold, dark place?

On Google+ yesterday, Debbie was

reminded of a story from my parenting program at the correctional centre. During the program, talking about guiding self-discipline and empowerment, one gentleman said, “all this thinking- it is so much work. It was easier to not think about all this.”
Building a joyful community is indeed a lot of work as opposed to expecting and enforcing the “on task” desk work. It is so much harder to plan for the unexpected than to enforce the expected. But the outcome – the joy fullness, the empowerment, the sense of community: priceless!

And Brendan talked about many different lenses through which one can analyze Ms. X’s “black-and-white thinking:”

One way to look at this black-or-white thinking is through the lens of the factory model paradigm of people being “compliant or defiant” with their factory roles.  When people don’t “comply,” friction is applied to Ms. X and Mr. Y’s factory roles.  The same pattern repeats when Ms. X or Mr. Y don’t comply with directives from Powers, or expectations from students or parents that go beyond the expected factory routine.

I want to address all of Brendan’s lenses – those of Myers-Briggs Personality Types, Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy, Cultural Anthropology, Context Collapse, and Rod Baird’s Counterfeit Kids – but I think each lens deserves a post of its own.  Since today and tomorrow should be fairly quiet days – and since Ms. X and I will probably be too busy to interact much – I’m hoping to have time and space for the lenses in this week’s remaining posts.

Lenses, after all, are important.  They bend light, distorting it in some ways, but helping us see other things more clearly – like the lenses in my glasses or those in a telescope or magnifying glass.  With a simple lens, you get a distorted picture; with multiple lenses, or a complex one, things can come into clearer focus.  As builders and sustainers of joyful community, we need those different lenses just as we need each other’s perspectives!

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Published in: on June 11, 2013 at 11:40 am  Comments (1)  

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