Thursday, April 5, 2012

Push it REAL good, or maybe not....

If you've ever been to Maine you might have noticed the fickle weather.  Three weeks of rain in the summer can be offset by a 70 degree day in December (true stories).  This past November we had one of those "gift" days.  Everyone was giddy with the "hot" weather.  I tore out of school, taking care to not burn rubber in front of the busses, and headed straight home to grab my kayak and hit Clary Lake.  Now the weather was like summer, but the length of day was still a short November.  

Imagine my chagrin when I realized the kayak racks were off my little Corolla.  No problem, I overcame and found a way to strap the boat onto the Jeep and took off.  Unfortunately, the five mile drive to the lake told me my tie down method did not benefit from the rush job (see last post's topic of PATIENCE).  But no matter, I sallied forth to the lake, untied the kayak and "put boat in water."

What a gorgeous paddle, doesn't the lake look beautiful?  I stayed on the water until the sun went down.  By the time I made it back to the car it was dark.  My hands were a little chilly and I just didn't want to fuss around with the straps.  So my "brilliant" solution was to take down the back seats of the Jeep and throw the boat in the car. It had worked with my sons' two kayaks, so OF COURSE it would work again.

I slid that puppy in, congratulating myself for being a creative and practical problem solver (see Maine Learning Results).  As I brought down the tailgate I met with some resistance.  Hmmm, if at first you don't succeed, try HARDER.  So I brought the tailgate down again, with GUSTO.  The tailgate latched just as I heard a sickening crack.  The boat was tucked safely in my car, nestled up close and personal with my windshield.

When I talked with the insurance company it was hard to tell the truth about what happened, and to be honest, I might have tried lying about it, but I simply couldn't come up with any other logical explanation.

As I sat in the glass shop, waiting for my windshield to be replaced I thought about how forcing anything (except maybe plant bulbs) just isn't the smart route.  There are some kids in my class who are reluctant learners.  They have experienced failure in school and wish to avoid that sensation as much as possible.  I can try to force these kids to learn.  Pushing them and pushing them in the same manner relentlessly.  But all that gets me is a metaphoric cracked windshield, and the damage is deeper that that spider web crack in the glass.  Another alternative is to step back.  Look at the situation, and use my brain to create a different solution.

My class math block is after lunch and recess.  For an hour and a half.  Yowzer.  It wasn't so bad at the beginning of the year, but as the material became more difficult I started losing even the most engaged students.  It was painful, root canal painful.  I didn't even like the block and yet I kept pushing and pushing... The best case scenario was the kids just didn't latch onto the concept.  The worst case scenario was my more emotionally fragile kids had meltdowns, resulting in their departure from the classroom.

Finally I stopped pushing and looked at the situation.  I had a half hour of wiggle room in the morning before I started losing kids to different teachers. If we moved morning meeting up a little I might even get forty minutes.  So I changed it up.  We started the hard core part of the math lesson early in the morning with follow up in the afternoon.  The kids immediately perked up. When we did a fist to five evaluation of our new math schedule the result was an overwhelming number of fives.

It's not in my nature to stop and assess a situation.  I'm guilty of jumping in the pool before checking to see if there's water in it.  Yet when I do just pause, breathe a little and think around a challenge I meet with much greater success than pushing through.  And my Jeep will thank me to remember it.

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