Saturday, March 23, 2013

Benchmarks and Cairns

What is the best way to travel though the wilderness?
Looking for a trail, a path or route through this wilderness, we often times have to forge our way through the unknown. Looking to others for guidance often works wonders.

 While hiking in the mountains, over piles of rocks, tundra or nondescript wilderness, there are often piles of rocks, obviously and deliberately placed and spaced far enough to see from one to the next one.  Use of these trail markers, or cairns, prevents the need for an ugly stripe or trail across the landscape.  Instead, this series forms a guide, rough trail or path to reach a goal.  Interestingly, it also allows for some interpretation of the best path to a destination.  We walk wherever we want and not single file, thus preventing trails or scars or unsightly ruts.

Like walking in a wilderness, with no true trail, we each must blaze our own path in life.  We may look to others for guidance and direction.  Our teams, PLNs, fb friends, co-workers all contribute to the path we carve out but in reality, we must make our own choice.  Essentially, we all do whatever we want!  The fear of consequences often plies direct influence on our choices but we strive to do what we want. For instance, I would rather ride my motorcycle, yet I go to work to allow me the freedom to take those rides.  Without some form of income, those adventures would be cost prohibitive.

Maturity allows us to learn from others mistakes, like the hot stove illustration for a youngster.  We would not knowingly allow them to burn themselves, would we?  Rather we might strongly suggest a youngster not touch the hot burner.  Maturity then allows them to learn that our guidance is often for their good and they learn to listen to wisdom.  (Of course there are outliers)  Another example, “I have to go to school  may be restated, “I choose to go to school to prevent my parents being charged with educational neglect.”  Especially since a student may not articulate those thoughts as deliberately and may feel “forced” to attend, when in fact, it is still a choice.

 Speaking of school, school years, seasons, and days contain similar denotations or markings with many parameters to guide our paths.  For instance, we pace our curriculum using data about students understanding asking questions about what they know and don’t know and how we respond. (@atplc)  We help them discipline themselves by discussing socially acceptable behavior and provide extrinsic incentives in a quest to shift their motivation to intrinsic, all to help citizenship. (@swpbs) We establish relationships to connect and reach into their lives to influence.  We use this connection to steer them along a route, not a defined path but a direction, according to the perceived needs and mandates of society as a whole.

 Spring break is one of those benchmarks.  It reminds us of the passage of time, the growth of our charges and the impending transition from one grade to the next.  These transitions are often great times of stress in student’s lives.  Passing classes, end of term projects and final events, competitions and exams all contribute to their uncertainties.  Educators are asked to do the very best, with so little for so long, yet they still do whatever they want!  They take a job like this because of the children.  They have high expectations for children and themselves.  Conflicts occur when expectations go unmet.  Here lies the dilemma.  Collaboration with stakeholders aligns expectations and results between an educational system and the community that it serves.  Pressure, force and coercion may not accomplish unity, when one party values accomplishment and an ability to articulate concrete and abstract concepts with another party desiring the status-quo.  The children and students suffer during this conflict but persistence through these endeavors prepare them for success.

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