Peace Of Mind To Try Your Hardest

Climbing. Issue 315. May 2013. p. 72.

Climbing. Issue 315. May 2013. p. 72.

…is a safe way to start a route, especially if the first moves are difficult…Plus, it will give you peace of mind to try your hardest.

Rock climbers are taught safe ways to climb because, once reassured of their safety, they can more easily look for, and find, the focus, strength, and perseverance they need to move ahead and exceed the limits of their skill and knowledge. Hmm. This goal has a familiar ring to it. What will I do to make sure my students feel safe enough to risk blazing trails into places where they thought they couldn’t go? Watch them. Talk to them. Know them. Govern them well. It all starts there.


Bad Governor

M is an eighth grade, special ed student whom I support (as an ed tech) in two general ed classrooms. He’s easily distracted and does not readily accomplish his goals. But M loves his computer and he loves his Minecraft. Seen that?
The students are watching a movie that parallels the book they’re reading, They’re on the look-out for the usual suspects: comparisons, contrasts, where the movie and text meet, where they don’t. M is on his machine, angled away from sight, almost certainly not taking notes. I confirm this: his not taking notes is certain. Minecraft is in effect.
This is not a freakishly rare event. I speak to M often about this sort of machine mismanagement. But this time I said nothing, just closed the lid, took it off his desk, and put in in the resource room where he could have it next period.
Losing machine privileges for a while was a legit consequence (M is cut a lot of slack but he is not supposed to be blatantly Minecrafting during a lesson). My taking the machine away was a legit action. Nothing here is technically wrong. But everything here is wrong. I should not have wordlessly taken his machine, or anything else. That was appallingly bad governance.
Good governance should inspire self-governance. Good governors should lead instead of drive. The difference is a matter of respect for those being governed: my students. Good governance guides students to their best behavior instead of reducing their chances to behave better.

Dalai Lama for Governor

I could have spoken instead of mutely exercising my power: I have so much more power than you, I don’t even have to say a word. Groan. I could have first spoken with M: What’s going on? Who knows what I might have found out or where I would have seen to go next? Speaking and seeing; those were two senses that I shut down.
I could have explained to M what he needed to accomplish and how, if his machine was getting in the way, if it was too big of a rock to get around that day, that I could have held it for him until he needed it. I could have said something that would have squared M up with his responsibilities instead of stripping away all hopes for him having his own own control of the situation. As a last resort, if necessary, I could have respectfully asked M to give me his machine. My silence was not golden, nowhere near it, more like iron.
I checked in with my supervisor, who understood my unhappiness and said, maybe as balm, that it might have been good for M to have had that experience, to have been reminded that he does not have the freedom to act in ways he knows are wrong.
Meh. I should not have done it. Now I know, and the next time with anyone, anywhere, will be better. Good governors figure things out. They make new mistakes, not old ones.