Monday, April 4, 2016

What is an artificial environment? Ask the Fox

What does the Fox say?

This juvenile polar bear weighs over 1500 lbs, lives in a nice tank and setting at the St Louis Zoo, gets fed twice a day, plays in the water and pretty much enjoys the only life it has ever known.
What if we release him in the arctic wasteland? Will he survive?

We had a lunch discussion the other day about finding an injured wild fox and what it might say. We speculated over some options and what could happen if we took the wild animal home and tried to nurse it back to health and strength. Besides the legal implications of owning and keeping wildlife in the State of Missouri without a permit, we thought only of ourselves. We enjoyed the emotional or sentimental response that doing this good deed might illicit in inside ourselves. We thought bringing something back from the brink of impending doom held a certain mystique, or power behind it. Then we considered the fox and the necessary struggle it needs to grow, get strong, learn how to find water and food. It will also need to learn from its mother how to avoid predators, roads and civilization, including mankind and possible negative outcomes. At the onset, we felt like it would have been nice if we took care of the abandoned animal but at the end, all we did was postpone reality.

So how can we reconcile this cynicism and still teach school? Schools deal with children, communication, growth and feedback? How can we allow a certain amount of struggle necessary to increase stamina, strengthen skills and learn resilience? For one we must allow some failure, but not too much!

Teachers often times know how much to push, blending the right amount of encouragement with a little bit of wait time and some wrestling with the concepts before they even think about giving an answer. Often times they answer student questions with a question of their own, not wanting to give away the answer but make their wards work to get theirs. Teachers walk this fine line with every conversation, supporting a tender reed in one instance and replying with firm yet compassionate clues in other settings.

It’s not what we do! It’s who we are!

Tom McCracken
Winfield Middle School

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