Serious or Silly?

We’ve known for a few months that T and her family would be moving at the end of May, and in These Parts that means we knew T would have to take her final exams a bit early.  “Do you want to go ahead and take it on Friday,” I’d asked her last week, “or should we wait until Tuesday or Wednesday?”  T had decided to take it this week … and then Something Or Other happened, and T’s Great Big Important State Test got scheduled for Wednesday.  “I just found out,” she told me Tuesday morning, “and I don’t know what to do!”

There was no need to worry … at least about T’s Latin exam.  “Sit and breathe for a moment,” I told her, “and then I’ll come to you and give you the oral-response part, and then I’ll bring you the written part.”  And T did well, and she was happy.  “Congratulations!” I told her, “But I know you do well under pressure.”  T smiled and said she’d always done her best work under pressure, and she wasn’t sure why.

Imagine the fury and rage if Ms. X or Mr. Y had received such news!  Imagine the fretting and storming about They and not enough time and too much to cover!  In their own minds, Ms. X and Mr. Y are convinced that they’re utterly serious about the important business of delivering factual content and giving grades … but do they come across as serious or silly?

When I think of my own Mr. Y moments, I’m pretty sure I’ve seemed more silly than serious.

Yesterday was the long-planned Utterly Important Meeting about how to administer Great Big Important State Tests.  It had been on the calendar for several weeks, but apparently Many A Ms. X and Mr. Y had “forgotten” about it, as there was a “reminder announcement” from a Relevant Power in the middle of a class period.  Ms. X and Mr. Y “hate” Interruptions Like That, they claim, but their “hatred” doesn’t translate into actions (like looking at the school calendar!) that would prevent Such Interruptions from occurring.  They also “hate” being “treated like The Kids” when Powers That Be “go over stuff” … but, again, that “hatred” doesn’t translate into changed behavior.

Serious … or silly?  One Ms. X requested a last-minute change to the schedule for next week and seemed surprised when her request was rejected.  Somebody Else was puzzled about an Official Provision which has actually been in the directions for Great Big Important State Tests for years.  Another Ms. X, who has no Great Big State Test responsibilities at all, seemed intent on creating an Utterly Detailed Outline of notes … about things she wouldn’t have to do or even worry about.

Why have I been surprised that N, G, T, B, and so many others expect randomness and inconsistency?  From their perspective, the whole enterprise of factory-model school must seem utterly random, utterly inconsistent.  Ms. X says one thing today, Various Powers announce “no exceptions” to countless policies and procedures, and within a week, everything has changed.  “Memorize This Stuff for the Great Big Test!” Ms. X scolds, “and don’t worry about That Stuff; it’s not on The Test.  Do all of My Work, because it will all count for a grade … but I was really busy and They changed the deadline, so I’m only going to count some of it.”

To be fair, I don’t think that’s what Ms. X and Mr. Y think they’re saying … but I have a strong suspicion that’s what N, G, T, and B have been hearing.  In turn, when they’re loudly ignoring everybody around them, N and the others don’t think they’re saying anything to anybody … but everybody around them is hearing and perceiving an unmistakable message of disregard, disrespect, or even contempt.  “But I’m a good student!  And Z was talking!  And Q wasn’t doing the assignment either!”  N and friends have mostly stopped using excuses like those, but old habits die hard.

Serious … or silly?

In a joyful learning community, you can be serious and silly … serious when needed, silly when that’s called for, both at once on days when that’s the best or only possibly response.  Why? Because joyful learning communities are about the people and the learning … and people, like the process of learning itself, can be both serious and silly, not infrequently at the same time.  But factory-mindset thinking calls for one or the other, and it encourages us to see examples and policies, procedures and checklists, as more important than the people or the learning.  All too often Ms. X and Mr. Y choose excessive seriousness about such things and make themselves look silly, even ridiculous, as a result.

It’s a busy, crazy time of year … but how will we continue to build and sustain joyful learning communities, to be serious when we need to and silly when that’s called for?  And what other new discoveries await us all in the days to come?



Published in: on May 28, 2014 at 10:30 am  Leave a Comment  

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