I was reminded this morning that it’s a special day at Former School. If I were still “there,” I wouldn’t have been there … because this is the day of one of the Special Class Field Trips that the Current Powers instituted a few years ago. A quarter of the school is visiting a Particular Museum and the campus of a Nearby University today, and no doubt they have a Special Worksheet to complete as they did last year.
The original idea wasn’t a bad one. It seems that the Relevant Powers, in talking with a few students, had discovered that quite a number of them had never been on a school-sponsored trip anywhere … and quite a number of students at this “college preparatory” school had never been to a college campus. No doubt the solution seemed obvious: take every student on a trip every year, and visit some Local University Campuses with the freshmen, the sophomores, and the juniors. By the time you account for travel, lunch, and the inevitable delays, there might be an hour or so on the campus, an hour or so at the Special Attraction of the year. But that’s better than nothing, isn’t it?
With distance comes perspective … and with distance and perspective the whole endeavor seems comical to me. Poor Ms. X and Mr. Y, frantic about “not enough time and too much to cover,” miss a day of time and coverage with “their” students to accompany “somebody else’s” students on the Big Trips. There’s “not enough time and too much to cover” for any advance preparation for the trips, so students (at least when I was there) don’t know what to expect or what to look for. Ms. X and Mr. Y, whose college experiences came in a totally different era, and who probably didn’t attend the Particular Schools? Can they provide any reasonable guidance to students they don’t know well, who may or may not be interested in the Particular School of the day?
Distance and perspective are closely related to Mark Nepo’s image of dilation and constriction that inspired my post yesterday. They’re the waiting side of waiting and acting … the waiting that, to expand on Nepo’s image of Moses and Hamlet, took Moses forty years in Midian and took Hamlet most, but not all, of the play. Without waiting and reflecting, at least for a bit, you might rashly kill a metaphorical Egyptian guard and have to flee, metaphorically, for your life as young Moses did … and you might find that the very people you intended to help reject you in fear, just like young Moses’ experience.
“It was OK,” one of my students told me after the equivalent trip last year, “but it was kind of stupid. But lunch was pretty good.” I’m not sure that’s what the Relevant Powers would have wanted to hear.
Distance and perspective can help with little “emergencies,” too. There was an odd log-in issue with the Virtual Classroom this morning; I still don’t know why that unusual error message kept appearing, then disappeared just as the District Y Latin Family’s class was starting. The other time we had log-in issues, I was frantic and furious; I did have the presence of mind to call the schools and let them know, and I did send emails to the students to let them know what to do, but I spent a bit of time storming and raging. With distance and perspective, I see that there was fear behind the anger: the old factory-model fear of “What if They get upset or even say something?”
But there isn’t a They, and the folks I partner with for this process aren’t the type to get upset or say something the way Ms. X and Mr. Y fear. Everyone understands technological glitches, especially when they affect all the users of a system. And we have a back-up plan in place, and it’s worked beautifully when we needed it … and we didn’t even need it today. We were especially productive, and I wonder if the averted problem actually contributed to the feeling of productivity.
Distance and perspective helped me stay calm and find sensible solutions … but distance and perspective are so rare in factory-model schools! “Pay attention!” snaps Ms. X. “Teach bell-to-bell,” command Powers That Be. “Instructional Time is limited, and The Test with all its implications is closer than you think!”
But nobody can “pay attention” all the time. We’re naturally wired for a balance of dilation and constriction, work and rest, taking things in and processing them. Debbie made a great point in her Google+ comment:
have you ever played a game of peek-a-boo with an infant, or some other “in your face” interaction?
The babe will smile, goo, maybe laugh, and then at some point will look away… and in a moment or two, they will return “centre” to continue the game.
There is research that has shown a correlation between ADHAd and interactions with an infant where the parent would follow the child’s eyes to keep the baby engaged in the activity.
The research shows that the “looking away” (“constricting”) is a form of self-regulation. The “dilation” of the game becomes overwhelming and the baby instinctively (?) knows to take a break … unfortunately, some adults are no longer aware of this need and persist in maintaining the high alert activity.