Steps and Setbacks, II

If you’d been watching from the outside, Monday would have looked like an ordinary summer day in my world. The Girl started a two-week theater camp, which required me to take her To and From. Emails, messages, and Google+ comments arrived, needing to be answered. I responded to the Very Last Set of online professional development submissions, then turned in my Final Session Roster. It was finally time to get That Tire replaced … and to resist, pleasantly but firmly, the inevitable upsell offers. (No, I don’t need or want two other new tires right now. No, if any brake work is necessary, y’all won’t be the ones to do it.) Meals with The Boy and The Girl, feeding The Dog and The Cat. Some reading, some thinking, some favorite old TV shows on Netflix. An ordinary-looking summer day.

But from the inside, things didn’t seem ordinary at all. There was a lively Google+ conversation about yesterday’s post which inspired me to keep taking those all-important steps. The conversation about “Design Thinking Action Lab” continued, growing ever richer and helping me make some more all-important connections. Another conversation, this one about a study of “high” vs “low” achievers and what they “need” to succeed in factory-schools, hit me in the heart: “achievers,” at least when you look at the summary, seem to be those who conform to factory-expectations, and they get rewarded with “autonomy” (which means choices within a predetermined set of factory-options) while the “low achievers” (those who don’t conform to the production-line schedule) get “guidance and structure.” I can only imagine what that would look like in Ms. X’s classroom … and how infrequently she’d acknowledge the existence of a “high achiever!”

And the conversation about Friday’s post continued, too, full of excellent insights and practical steps to take. I’d quote some of them, but this is one of those conversations where context is all-important. Another conversation, a private one, was full of steps (as the unrefined idea was presented to folks who might be interested) and perhaps setbacks (as they didn’t understand or weren’t interested in the idea of a subscription-based lesson-sharing community).

But were those responses really setbacks? Or were they actually important steps in the right direction? It was a half-formed idea, based on a friend’s excellent experiences with another, similar site that appeals to a very different audience. It’s a simple idea, beautifully executed … but how many iterations did it go through at the beginning, as complexities and irrelevancies were stripped away, as the audience was identified, as their needs and desires came into sharper focus. And how many iterations will it take for main vision, the network of Three Column Schools, to come into focus, to move from vision to reality?

Monday also brought details of my state’s “budget compromise,” which was almost immediately, and predictably, vilified as “an attack on public education” or “the destruction of education as we know it” by predictable groups. I’m not convinced, especially as I look at the time frames for the provisions most widely seen as “attacks.” A year is a long, long time, and “by 2018” might as well be “by when the cows come home” … and sometimes provisions in such legislation are included not because they’re intended to happen, but as a warning shot or a slap in the face. And “both” sides in this squabble, who would probably label each other as “bad, lazy politicians who don’t really care” and “spoiled, entitled teachers who ought to be grateful we didn’t do anything worse to them,” are predictably focused on … the political process and the political games and everything except the actual, individual children and families who will be languishing in factory-paradigm schools no matter what budget decisions come down from On High.

Steps … and setbacks. Triumphs … and tragedies. The threads of life which, woven together, make some kind of pattern, at least in retrospect. But where is the pattern leading us builders and sustainers of joyful communities? How, specifically, do we take the setbacks and turn them into opportunities?

Published in: on July 23, 2013 at 12:29 pm  Leave a Comment  

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