"Shit!" I think as I see the red and blue lights flashing in my rear view mirror and hear the sirens screaming. My speedometer reads 70 miles per hour. The speed limit is 55. "I haven't gotten a ticket in a while," I think. "I guess it's only right I pay for my right to drive fast..."
Adam woke up cranky today. If you're a parent, you likely remember that a cranky 3 year old is basically a temper tantrum time bomb. Sure enough...
After a 20 minute tantrum or a series of tantrums, Kasia and Adam finally appear downstairs. Today is my day to take him to daycare and Wednesday happens to be my 7:30 am PLC meeting day, which I almost never make on time when I have to drop my son off at school. I hate being late and always try to be punctual, but I should know better and let the notion that I can somehow still make it to work on time go.
You see, as Kasia and Adam were battling it out upstairs, I actually made him breakfast and had it ready by the time they came downstairs. It's all good now, minus the lost time, nervous atmosphere, and the rush. We eat. We set off.
"I'll never make it on time now," I think. "I wonder how long it'll take and how much it'll cost me?" I put my hand in the air to indicate that I see him, turn my right blinker on, and start to change lanes to pull over on the right. As I do, I hear a loud "Slow down!" and the unmarked blue SUV passes by. I raise my hand in acknowledgement and mouth "Thank you," as the officer passes by. "Damn! That was lucky," I think and monitor the gauge more closely the rest of the way.
I drop Adam off. I get back on the road. I stop at a gas station to get coffee. I get back on the road. I park. It's 7:38 am and it's okay. I really needed that coffee. If only for one day, I am done paying for my right to rush. I don't want to.
I'm in a rush way too often. I rush to get to school and I rush at school.
I have a sneaking suspicion this happens to most of us. And, we do it to others. We rush ourselves and we rush them. We try to be productive and efficient, but we don't focus enough on being better.
Improvement calls for learning and reflection. It's not something we can rush. Yet, we do that all the time.
Just as we might rush from one thing to the next in personal life, we jump from one topic to the next in our classroom. We move to cover the standards. We move on to the next concept having limited feedback or feedback to the contrary. Our students are not ready. Just because some aced the test does not mean they learned. Many did not. This often becomes clear when they're asked to recall a past skill or method and apply it in the present.
But time is precious. We move on. They get left behind. School becomes a race to nowhere.
Sometimes we talk with colleagues and blame it on the students. "They're lazy, immature, and apathetic. It's easy, they just don't apply themselves. They get distracted. They procrastinate. They just don't give a shit."
Don't get me wrong. Some of this undoubtedly happens. But I feel too often it's too easy for us to default to what are THEY not doing? Not nearly often enough do we ask: How can WE improve to make this better for THEM?
This is the work. It's damn difficult, but it's do or die! We must find the will and muster the strength to do it.
How can we serve our students better? Efficiency and productivity keep us trudging along without any meaningful progress. We rush to cross things off the list as the list grows ever more impossible. When we rush, we pay the price. It's an unacceptable toll to pay when it comes to our students. It's educational malpractice that's allowed. Not learning is not an option. Still we rush...
I know that to get somewhere we have to improve. To improve we have to slow down. The old paradigm of maximizing time and cramming as much as possible in? That's a race to nowhere. We can't wait for permission to do what's right. We must give ourselves one and do what feels natural. We must teach so students learn.
You have the power to change the world. Use it often.