Saturday was rainy and warm; Sunday was pleasant, but windy and chilly. I had various errands and commitments both days, but by Sunday afternoon, it was good to sit peacefully at home, with The Dog and The Cat nearby, planning out the week ahead and doing a bit of reading. And then, in the course of that reading, I came across this link on a Google+ share. I haven’t read the whole book yet; in fact, I’m not sure when or whether I’ll read the whole thing. But the image of riding waves without trying to control the flow was exactly what I needed last night, and it’s still what I need this morning.
Ever since I was a small child, I’ve loved watching waves and playing in waves, but I don’t surf. As a child, I lived pretty far from the ocean, so it would have been difficult to learn; later, when I moved closer to the coast, I had adult responsibilities and other priorities. But I love watching really good surfers, and I even enjoy watching the learners and the less-than-great surfers who get out there, knowing full well that the glorious ride will be brief and the end may be painful. If you let them, they’ll teach you an important lesson about joy and imperfection, a vital lesson for those of us still trapped in that 20th-century notion of perfect and flawless.
All organizations, Mr. Owen says, are actually self-organizing. No matter how hard you try to command and control, you have to realize that your influence and power are severely limited. The surfer can’t control the waves or the weather, and the leader can’t control the thoughts or even the actions of the subordinates. Planning is important, and communication is vital, and without setting and sharing a vision you’ll be lost whether you’re building an organization or riding that perfect wave. But the illusion of control is just that: an illusion.
Somehow that helped a lot on a windy Sunday evening. It still seems to be helping on a chilly Monday morning that will turn into a glorious spring day.
Friday wasn’t a bad day, but it was difficult. Everyone was tired after a long week, and the constantly changing weather hadn’t helped matters at all. No one seemed to have much energy or self-management to push on through the day’s readings, perhaps because Ms. X and Mr. Y had been giving tests and yelling about makeup work and threatening about grades all day. The groups in the advanced class who are working on the AP syllabus kept themselves reasonably well focused, and so did the “pure” Latin III group who are reading the Tres Columnae Project stories in Lectiōnēs XXX and XXXI about the eruption of Vesuvius and its aftermath. But for many others, keeping focus just seemed too hard.
At one time, I would have tried to control the waves and ended up frustrated, angry, or worse. But I didn’t. “It looks like we made some poor decisions today,” I said, “in terms of the timelines that we set. Evidently we’ll have a lot of catching up to do on Monday.” And L, U, B, and J, who had been the least focused of all, neither argued nor disagreed. After all, it’s their problem, not mine; the Minor Assessment process begins today and ends on Wednesday, and it requires them to understand most details in the fairly lengthy set of readings they’ve been ignoring. So they can either do the reading or accept the consequences of a not-so-great Minor Assessment product … and either way, the choice and the outcomes belong to them.
That’s liberating, but I suppose it would be scary for Ms. X and Mr. Y. “What if they get bad grades?” Ms. X often moans. “What if They (the Powers That Be, I suppose) get upset, or what if Those Parents call and complain?” Ms. X and Mr. Y are so intent on controlling others that, all too often, they lose sight of the things that only they can control … and when they do, various kinds of metaphorical wipeouts are sure to follow. I know, of course, because I’ve been there and done that so many times. It’s a lot easier, after all, to try to control others (and then whine about how out of control or “bad and lazy” they are) than to control yourself and focus on the work only you can do. Is that why we cling so hard to the illusion of control that factory-structures provide, even when it’s perfectly clear that it’s just an illusion?
The Latin Family will be reading and building and creating stories today, and we’ll be riding the waves of Spirit Week and thematic dress days, of spring weather and the impending arrival of the school year’s end. That’s a challenge for a joyful learning community, but it’s a good challenge, like the great waves I’ve seen surfers ride on my occasional trips to the Pacific coast. At the start of this busy week, I wonder what new and unexpected waves will arise, and I wonder how we’ll go about riding them … and where they’ll take us, and what new adventures and insights await us all.