For, To, and With

There were two separate meetings in two different places Monday afternoon: a smaller one for folks who needed to be trained for a Big Upcoming Thing, and a larger, scheduled faculty meeting.  I may or may not be involved with the Big Upcoming Thing, but I’d been asked to attend that meeting so there would be an extra trained person in case one was needed.  So I don’t know what happened at the bigger meeting, but I did see the agenda and have a feeling Ms. X and Mr. Y were probably fussing and fretting by the end of it.

Two items stuck out, items that are probably familiar to anyone who’s ever worked in a factory-school environment.  One was a reminder about turning in lesson plans, which Ms. X and Mr. Y often seem to “forget” to do.  Another was a reminder to look at the calendar and use it when making plans.  Apparently Ms. X and Mr. Y have trouble with that, too.

The phone rang in the middle of a class period, which is unusual enough … and then it wasn’t a Relevant Power calling for a student; it was Ms. X’s classroom.  “Oh!” she said, “I’m sorry, I was trying to call Ms. M.”  Ms. M’s classes did once occupy the classroom where the Latin Family is now housed, but it’s been well over a year (and least three phone extension lists ago) since they moved to another part of the building.  “I must have been looking at an old list or something,” Ms. X said fretfully.  Then, at the end of the day, the phone rang again … and it was That Ms. X again.  But when I answered, no one was there.  And that worried me enough that I went to find That Ms. X, concerned that something might have happened to her.  “Oh, no,” she said, “I just realized I should call somebody else, so I hung up the phone.  And if we get yelled at at The Meeting, it’s my fault,” she added.  “I didn’t turn my lesson plans in this morning because it was a Bad Weekend.”

I wonder what That Ms. X would have said if a “bad, lazy student” had failed to turn in a project because “it was a Bad Weekend!”  Actually, I have a fairly good idea what she would have said: it would have involved yelling and labeling or scolding and blaming or fretfully taking off points.  And if a “bad, lazy student” hadn’t bothered to notice a date Ms. X posted in her classroom?  More of the same, I’m sure.  Why, then, do Ms. X and Mr. Y get upset when they’re asked to follow the same standards they ask (or tell or order) their students to follow?

I keep thinking it has to do with the idea of to, for, and with.  Factory-school structures, boiled down to their essence, are designed to do educational things to the students who serve as their raw materials, for a particular set of societal purposes.  If you live in a world of to and for, you’ll always be conscious of the folks above you in the hierarchy, the ones who send directives and mandates to you.  And you’ll always want to separate yourself from the folks below you, the ones you give orders and instructions to.  What about the for, the societal purposes?  At one time I would have said they get lost in the shuffle of “too much to cover” and “so much to do.”   At another time I would have said we (or at least I) like to refer to them on bad days, or sad days, or days when the to seems overwhelming.  But that’s a complicated issue, and this post is getting long.

“Dr. Q yelled at us like we were a bunch of bad, lazy students or something,” a Former Ms. X moaned years ago, at a very different school, after a meeting where I’m pretty sure I agreed with Dr. Q!  “If you don’t let students do This Particular Thing,” he had said, “then you shouldn’t do This Particular Thing in front of them, in class.”  I can’t now remember what the Particular Thing was, but Many A Ms. X and Mr. Y apparently found the very idea upsetting.  The phrase sauce for the goose comes to mind, but I’m sure Many A Ms. X and Mr. Y has a very good reason why they, Ms. X and Mr. Y, are “special and different” in comparison with “those bad, lazy kids.”

While a factory-structure is built on the to and the for, a joyful learning community centers on the with.  Different members of a community are different from each other, of course; that’s part of the joy, as well as the challenge, of building a truly diverse community.  But when you’re freed of the notion that you do standardized things to people for standardized purposes, you can embrace the diversity as a strength, not a problem, and you can all work together with each other for purposes that you set, clarify, and refine together.  That’s a good thing to remember at the beginning of a long, busy day.

I wonder what other insights and connections this long, busy day will reveal!

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Published in: on February 25, 2014 at 11:21 am  Comments (2)  

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  1. […] not enough are as constant and as important as the questions of to, for, and with we talked about yesterday.  I wonder what new insights about all these questions await us […]

  2. […]  But as the day went by, I realized there’s a connection between that post and the one from Tuesday  about for, to, and with, and there’s probably a connection with Wednesday’s post […]


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