The Girl is an officer in an organization at her school which traditionally makes memory boxes or memory baskets for graduating seniors. Each returning member writes a letter to each senior, and the letters are put in specially decorated boxes, baskets, or jars. We took a trip to a Nearby Store on Wednesday afternoon to pick up supplies, since The Girl was in charge of making the boxes this year. She decided on boxes, with specially-made name tags and some ribbon and other decorations. The results, as of Wednesday evening, were beautiful … and I hope her graduating friends appreciate the boxes as well as the content.
Every time I’m involved with a design project like that one, especially a project involving one or both of my own children, I’m impressed with the ways they flexibly adapt and develop workarounds when things don’t go quite as planned. The Girl had a vision for last year’s baskets, but that vision had to change when the available baskets were a different color than she’d hoped for. “I don’t have a vision yet,” she said yesterday, “because I need to see what’s available first.” Initially she considered some colorful, pre-decorated boxes, but then she found the plain ones and the supplies she ended up using.
Memories … and workarounds. This is a time of the school year when both are important. There are the memories of friendships formed and deepened, the ones that brought B, D, and B to the Latin Family Zone Wednesday afternoon because I “had to” sign their yearbooks for them. There are memories of a more academic kind, the ones measured by Great Big Important State Tests and other kinds of final exams. There are the memories we teachers confront as we look through students’ projects from the year: what to keep for the future? What to keep in digital photographic form? What to discard if A, B, or C doesn’t want to have it back?
Memories … and workarounds. The Shiny New Student Information System handles some things differently from the Formerly Shiny Old System, so Ms. X and Mr. Y had one small, additional task to complete. Ms. B sent them some instructions which made perfect sense to me, but Many A Ms. X and Mr. Y was confused because the directions were an overview, not a step-by-step guide to the process. Another workaround was necessary to verify final grades for seniors, and I’m sure there were plenty of others that I (thankfully!) don’t know about.
Even with all the careful planning I’d done for these last few days of school, some workarounds and adaptations were important. A Special Thing showed up mysteriously on the calendar for this afternoon; I’m not sure how (or whether) it will affect the Vitally Important Review Session that’s also scheduled then. I know there’s another Special Thing sometime tomorrow even though it’s not on the calendar yet. And of course graduation is late Friday afternoon, and all kinds of workarounds were necessary because the venue is different this year.
One Ms. X was pleasantly surprised because someone or other had provided baked goods and some fruit on what’s usually “Water Wednesday.” Another Ms. X was sure that “They are up to something, bribing Us like that.” Earlier in the day, N had been really scared about her exam, then pleasantly surprised by her score on the oral part. K, C, D, and E were pleasantly surprised, too. Several people said “Thank you!” when I showed them scores in the Novice High to Intermediate Low range for interpretive reading … and I wonder what memories of prior success and prior struggles contributed to those expressions of gratitude.
Memories and workarounds are more closely connected than I realized! Our memories lead us to see patterns and predictions, but the patterns don’t always hold and the predictions sometimes fail. What to do when that happens? We try to find a workaround, but the available stock of those depends to some degree on our experiences and memories, too. Many A Ms. X, confronted with a “bad, lazy, terrible class,” does the same things she’s always done because that’s all she knows how to do. When I’m tired, distracted, or upset, it’s easy to fall back into a Former System that served me (and students a decade or more ago) well in its time, but started showing signs of age quite a few years ago.
Memories … and workarounds. A joyful learning community has its own set of memories and shared experiences, and those experiences (and the sharing) provide a deep stock of wisdom and insight that you can draw upon when you need a workaround for something. The challenge is to remember that, to see that you don’t have to act alone, and then to involve the community and take appropriate action together. “This is one of the oldest Latin Family traditions,” I’ve said more than once this week … and as I think back, I realize those traditions began as workarounds on days when things wouldn’t or couldn’t go according to plan. So did a lot of favorite recipes, I realize: I was going to make This, but we were out of That, so I substituted The Other, and I’ve made it the new way ever since. Yesterday’s workaround can become today’s memory and tomorrow’s tradition if you’re flexible and open and willing.
I wonder what other new insights and discoveries await us all in the days to come. And I wonder what workarounds we develop today will become cherished memories and traditions in the future!