When I saw The One Ms. X on Tuesday morning, she looked a lot happier than she had the last time I’d seen her, right after that Long Meeting I described in Monday’s post. At that time, I could tell she was just about to start crying – and, in fact, she told me she “had a good cry” when she got home Monday night. “I’m an overachiever,” she said, “and I never got told anything was unsatisfactory before.” But then, after she finished her good cry, Ms. X got some perspective on the situation. “I think I was really upset because I spent so much time on those plans over the weekend,” she said. “I need to be more efficient so I can take care of myself and spend time with my family on weekends. And now that I know what They are looking for, I can definitely do that.”
I wonder what would have happened if the rubric had simply been distributed, perhaps with an explanation that both Great Powers Indeed and Local Powers would be using it. Would Ms. X have tucked it away with “all those handouts They give you at meetings,” or would she have used it – as she now plans to do – to take a serious look at the quality of what she’s planned for her classes? If you’re trying to break a factory-mindset, is it helpful or harmful to use the big, scary factory-tools in your attempts?
I obviously don’t know, can’t know, what the Great Powers Indeed envisioned when they developed the lesson plan rubric and the Grand Sweeping Plan which required it. But at least for Ms. X, the temporary pain may just lead to some lasting growth. Grand Sweeping Plans sometimes achieve real, important results on the small scale even when they fail – as they inevitably must – to achieve all of their desired outcomes on the large scale.
Are the Relevant Powers a step ahead? Is that what They hoped for all along? I don’t know them well enough to ask, and even if I did, I’m not sure They ought to tell me. In the end, the results are at least as important as the intentions anyway.
Perspective is really important, and it’s a lot harder to get and keep in a factory setting than in a real community.
There’s a special schedule at school today, with time set aside for the annual Community Service Fair and for a seminar in advisory groups that connects the themes of community and service with a text about preventing online and face-to-face bullying. The preparation of seminar texts and plans is one of the “many hats” I wear, and one of my favorites. But I’d been sick over the weekend, and then Monday happened, so it was Tuesday afternoon before Everyone Involved could look at the plan. “Don’t worry,” I told Ms. J, the office manager, “I’ll be glad to make the copies of the text.” And by the end of the day, with a small but efficient temporary community formed around the task, we had the texts and plans distributed to the teachers who’ll be needing them today. No need to scream or moan about not enough time or too much to do!
As the copies gradually appeared, I joined in a conversation with Ms. G and Mr. Z, who were both taking a short break from their custodial duties. It seems that “certain teachers” (I assume Ms. X and Mr. Y!) had criticized Ms. G because there were “fingerprints” on the new tables in the teachers’ work room and lounge area. In fact, they’d decided they “couldn’t eat there anymore” because of the fingerprints – but Ms. G’s work hours don’t start until after lunch, and there are plenty of paper towels and wipes available. (I know this because I use one every day, after I eat my lunch, to pick up anything that I might have dropped and leave the place clean for the next person to use it.) In their desire for a false (and impossible?) perfection, Ms. X and Mr. Y have lost perspective … and in the process, I guess they also lost community, or maybe they found a new, more “perfect” community wherever they’re eating their lunch now. I hadn’t actually missed them, though I’d noticed the area was a bit quieter and the emotional tone was more pleasant.
After school, but before my Next Long Meeting, J came by for a brief tutoring session on the Analytic Hand Signals for nouns and verbs we’ve learned so far in Latin I. They’re a small piece of the Major Assessment’s Individual Response, but I do want to know how well everyone’s doing at distinguishing the various forms from each other. “I’m worried,” said J, “and I just need a little bit of help.” So I chose a random sentence for her, and we read it out loud together, and she made the signals – and she was exactly where she needed to be. “Remind me,” I told her, “that your score on that section can’t be less than a 4 (which translates into a 100% score) because you just showed me that you can distinguish the different noun and verb forms with two mistakes or fewer.” And she rejoiced, her perspective changed completely in less than 5 minutes.
Perspective … and community. Without a strong sense of community, it’s easy to lose perspective, to fall into a mindset of negativity and catastrophe, to see peril, failure, even horror everywhere. With a toxic community, like the one Ms. X and Mr. Y seem to have developed around the fingerprints, you can fall into a limited, distorted perspective too. But with a healthy, open community – like the joyful learning communities we’re trying to build together – even Grand Sweeping Plans, last-minute crises, dirty tables, and other temporary annoyances can come together over time and contribute to a healthy, life-giving perspective.
I wonder what will help us build that kind of perspective today!