Sunday, October 23, 2011

Sweeping Away the Sand

I spent a couple of months in Kuwait prior to moving up into Iraq when the war started.  The U.S. military staging base was located in the middle of a sandbox in Northern Kuwait.  We were housed in large canvas tents that were in no way sealed off from the elements.  Sand would blow into the tents throughout the day so that by the time I got back to my cot at the end of my work day, there would be drifts throughout my meager 5 by 8 foot living space. The sand would seep into everything.  It would pile on top of my sleeping bag and my pillow--something that really agitated me. Each evening I would sweep up all of the sand around my area and toss it outside the tent.  It irritated me that those on either side of me would not do the same because no sooner had I cleaned up my area than the sand from their areas would blow over to mine again.  I'm sure they sensed my frustration and finally one of them asked me, "Why do you bother trying to keep the sand out? It only comes back and bothers you.  You are wasting your time."  To them I would respond, "I cannot control the fact that I am here in this dust bowl thousands of miles from my home.  But, I can control whether or not I sleep in a pile of sand every night.  I will take control where I can and the rest I will try not to worry about."

Most of our students arrive home to a pile of sand every day.  Some have the motivation and ability to sweep what they can away for the night minimizing the impact on their lives.  Most do not.  They have little control over their situations--their families, their parents, their support.  Some try to maximize their control while they are at school creating more stress in their lives.  After all, schools are very controlled environments and we are reluctant to surrender any of that control over to young people that we often do not trust.

Perhaps if we gave students a little more control during the school day, it might empower them to exercise a little more at home where they need it the most.

1 comment:

  1. Some good thoughts about what we can control and what we cannot. I have found with my students that a little control can go a long way. Sometimes I give too much too fast and they get lost in it, but many times with a little support, they succeed. This is the case with a school wide project one of my classes is working on now. Some don't quite know what to do without me telling them every step while still others have taken the reins and run. Interesting dynamic.