Really? Do You?
I think for most people and organizations, the truest answer is No. It’s almost always disguised as a Yes, but in the reality-under-the-skin, it’s a resounding No.
It’s just too hard to get better at something… anything. Because it requires change. And to get better and stay better requires lasting change. Even permanent change. And honestly, there just aren’t a lot of people who do that… who want to do that… who will do that. Oh there are plenty of people who want it… but only a few who actually WANT it. You know this is true.
Another chapter in my life has come to an end. I’m even going so far as to call it an era… because it has truly felt like a space in time unto its own. My school counseling days are over.
It was a short stint but it was jam-packed with activity and teaching / kids of all shapes and sizes / tons of growing and crying. We went through a boatload of Kleenex these past couple of years. It all started with two administrators who cared so much about students that they wanted a counselor-in-the-building. A chance phone call and I stumbled into the job. Everything blossomed from there.
Over the course of two years, I gained 550 new young friends. We talked about how to be good people. We imagined what a future world could look like. We made plans about what we wanted to be when we grew up. We learned how to be strong in the face of adversity to accomplish our goals. We had amazing adventures in learning together. We had fun in school! [What a concept :-/]
I witnessed courage in so many ways in the two admins who hired me, but two excellent examples I can give you are this painted office and a class called MindWorks. [Take a look at this website and this one to get a better idea about what we did.] Each in its own right was a drastic deviation from the norm in Yuma, Colorado. The three of us shook things up better than an epic earthquake.
In the beginning, my only goal was to help students grow. I just wanted them to glimpse a bigger world and know they could achieve whatever dreams they wanted if they worked hard and set their minds to it. I just wanted to plant some seeds in them for a bright future.
God gave me a gift. I was lucky enough to see some of those seeds sprout and grow. These kids got it. I could tell by their words and actions that the learning stuck. We often think of young minds as sponges. I saw the ideas get absorbed and used in real life. What a gift! I will hold that in my heart forever.
These kids want to get better… mostly because they don’t know there is an option. They just learn and grow… grow and learn. It’s the nature of kids.
Adults on the other hand are a totally different animal… deciding Do I really want to put in that much effort or not? Usually, the answer is Not.
It makes me uncomfortable.
It’s not how we have always done it here.
I don’t see the point.
It’s too radical.
I don’t want to break the tradition.
It’s too hard.
It’s too much work.
I don’t want anything to change.
On and on ad nauseum… all excuses. Those words keep circling back around from adults-who-assume-they-wield-the-power. Adults who think and say they want to get better but aren’t willing to do what it takes to make that happen.
So I was ousted from the counseling job by just such a group of adults. Funny even, that some of them have kids who are the students I just told you about. Their own kids grew this year… a lot.
But the MindWorks era is over because these adults couldn’t do change. They said they wanted to get better. I think they even believed it. But in the end, they couldn’t go the distance.
This is the after-shot of my office. This is the ghost painting… the painting beneath the painting. [Check out the works of Rembrandt, Van Gogh and Picasso.]
We painted these kids’ lives with some good color this year. Gave them some new learning opportunities they don’t normally get in school. I’m going so far as to say we changed their lives. I really believe we did.
But the reality they face now is white. Plain. Vanilla. Bland. Not the way to inspire hungry students.
Things will go back to how they have always been. Adults will do things the way they have always done them. It’s more comfortable… safer… more predictable… less work. They will sacrifice the future growth of these students again because they really don’t want to get better. They were completely satisfied with how things were before the earthquake of change rattled them. They will repair the damage that has been done and rebuild exactly what they had. In their small minds, all shall be well again.
Except for the students. They got a taste of a bigger world and what is possible for them. I can only hope they won’t settle for mediocre anymore. Their parents have… but I hope they won’t. Maybe they will see the white wall as a brand new, blank slate of possibility. I hope.