Too Much or Not Enough?

Ms. H is retired now, enjoying time with her family and playing her favorite Facebook games whenever she wants to. But when Ms. H was still working, one of her important roles was registration, helping students choose the classes they “wanted” (or “needed”) for the next school year.  According to Ms. H, They had a requirement for her to meet individually with every student, so Ms. H spent several weeks each spring, starting around now, pulling two of those one-piece student desks out of Ms. X or Mr. Y’s classroom, calling a student at a time out into the hallway with her, and painstakingly “going over”  course selections with them.  And yet, despite all her time and care, there were always “schedule problems.”  Promised classes couldn’t be offered, or new ones showed up at the last minute, and even when that didn’t happen, students and families still requested schedule changes, and much to Ms. H’s dismay, those requests were frequently granted by Greater Powers Than She.  “It was just too much,” she told me when she retired.  “I just couldn’t do it anymore.”

“It was just too much,” a Local Power said, referring to Ms. H’s process and describing the much simpler system in place for this year.  “We’ll meet with them by grade levels, distribute the materials, have them take the materials home to their families, and make appointments with anyone who has questions or needs to talk.”  And when I heard that phrase too much, I thought of Ms. H, and then I started thinking about things that are too much but not enough at the same time.

There are a lot of things like that in factory-school structures when you start looking closely.

Ms. D and I were talking about the push for college and career readiness the other day, and about how unprepared so many of our current senior “babies” (her term) are for the Outside World that faces them in a few months.  Ms. D is glad that there’s some career and college major guidance that comes with the score reports for some Big Standardized Tests, but she’s concerned because there’s “not enough time” to go over the reports in detail when students receive them.  That’s what the advisory groups were originally intended for, of course, but their meetings aren’t usually scheduled around the distribution of such reports, and even when they are, the advisory teachers don’t get the training and guidance Ms. X or Mr. Y would need to help their students interpret such reports.  And even if they did, would Ms. X and Mr. Y do the interpretation?  Or would they just hand out the reports, tell their students to “get busy,” and return to their typical pattern of … whatever they typically do during the advisory periods?

If you asked, Ms. X and Mr. Y would certainly say it was too much for them to be asked to help students interpret such reports, anyway.  “I’m not a guidance counselor,” One Ms. X said bitterly, a few years ago, when Some Power had directed her to do something similar.  “I’m a teacher, and I have a lot to do, and I don’t have any training, and there’s too much to cover in my classes anyway.”  But what Ms. X sees as far too much, many of her students see as not enough … and not even close to enough, it seems, when you ask them after you’ve built some trust and community together.

N was in a terrible mood the other day, and I think there were issues of too much and not enough at the root.  “Mr. S, Mr. S!” she said loudly, interrupting some directions for an assignment at the beginning of class, “Make Z stop trying to tie my shoe!”  Z, of course, was trying to tie the shoe because N had asked him to tie it for her.  “Why is that my job?” I asked her privately.  “Because you’re the adult!” she said brightly and loudly.   And then N wanted to get into a loud argument about her grade, and she wanted everybody involved in what, by its very nature, is a private conversation.  Too much was my first thought … but then I realized that N seeks this kind of negative, unpleasant attention because she’s starving for positive, constructive attention.  We had a private conversation, and I reminded N (who wanted to interrupt every sentence with an irrelevant argument or two) about what that grade represented and how it was in her hands.  “I know you started on the Minor Assessments,” I said, “and that’s why you do have that partial, temporary grade rather than no credit at all.  But you haven’t finished them, and I haven’t seen a product, and that’s why there isn’t a permanent grade.”  Within a few minutes N had stopped arguing, at least temporarily, and was using her considerable leadership skills to reorganize the group that was supposed to make the product last week.  “Did anybody else make a video?” she’d asked loudly, a few minutes earlier, until I reminded her that she’d made a special request for a video submission for what’s normally a physical product.  A physical product, of course, that has been submitted by most of the other working groups … and not only submitted, but presented, while N was busy doing Something Else.

Poor N!  It’s hard to live in a world of too much and not enough, harder still when you start your day in Ms. X’s teaching factory, spend some time in a joyful learning community setting that you really don’t quite understand, and then return to the teaching factory with Ms. X, Mr. Y, or Whoever.  And poor Ms. H, who lived in a world where too much and not enough were always connected, a world she’s happily escaped.  When you try to build joyful, abundant learning communities in the middle of a scarcity-oriented factory, issues of too much and 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 today!

Published in: on February 26, 2014 at 11:39 am  Comments (2)  

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2 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. […] H, one of the subjects of yesterday’s post, felt strongly that she was doing favors to the students she met with, slowly and laboriously, to […]

  2. […] and the one from Tuesday  about for, to, and with, and there’s probably a connection with Wednesday’s post about too much and not enough, too.  Grammatically speaking, that me is an interesting […]

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