This is the fourth installment in the totally random ‘The Ten Signs that Will Reshape Your Work (or Edu) Life’ series which shows how we can take a hint from signs we see out in the world to help us guide our professional life. This is a little longer than my usual posts, so if you’re in the mood for a short post, go HERE.
Okay, 3 different acts in this play: Act 1 is a personal anecdote involving my then 3-year-old daughter, Act 2 is a little background on this sign for those who don’t live near the ocean, and Act 3 is our connection to leadership, work life, and education.
Act 1: The Tiny Troublemaker
My daughter has very little fear, is easily distracted, and has little to no consideration for where her body is in space (proprioception for the nerds out there). Normally this meant she walked into a lot of walls or fell out of chairs, not the end of the world. However, we live near the ocean in Florida. Being on and around docks, jetties, and boardwalks are a part of life. One day we were walking around on a boardwalk with railings toward a lower section of docks without railings. As she started to step down toward one of the lower docks, I told her to stop and then pointed to a sign out in the water. I said, “Oh, sorry baby. We can’t go down there. That sign says No Small Children on the Dock.” She looked at me confused and then pointed to the same sign and slowly sounded out, “Slow speed, something wake”, and confidently told me that I read the sign wrong. I realized 3 things at that moment: you really want your kids to learn to read early, but it’s a blessing and a curse; I wasn’t going to be able to pull one over on this kid anymore; and minimum is a tough and funny looking word if you ponder it long enough.
Act 2: For Those Without Their Sea Legs
This sign is posted all over the water throughout Florida and indicates that the boat owner needs to make sure that the boat is totally settled in the water (as you speed up, the front of a boat lifts out of the water) so the thought process is that if your boat is totally settled in the water, you are going slow enough. At this time your boat should also not be creating any significant wake, the waves that emanate out from behind a boat as it slices through the water.
The main reasons for these signs being posted are because: 1) fast moving boats pose a big threat to manatees that frequent that area, and 2) the waves from large wakes that reach the shore cause increased erosion and can damage boats that are docked nearby by slamming them into the dock.
Act 3: The Long Awaited Connection
Your brain is already churning and working out the connections on your own and I’m sure there are a lot of ways we could go with this. Here’s where I currently stand: the ‘Slow Speed – Minimum Wake’ sign reminds us that not all policies, procedures, and processes are in place specifically for us, for right now, or for our benefit. Sometimes our impact to a system is both apparent and immediate, as it is with the manatee and the boats. Sometimes our impact to the system is both subtle and imperceptibly slow, as it is with shoreline erosion. Just because we cannot see the immediate impact of the processes or policies that govern our practice does not mean that there is not an impact to worry about or that no impact has been considered. Sometimes we do things ‘that way’ because they are better for the professional ecosystem or for a population who cannot raise their own voice.
As we think about the application of this thought process to education, remember that we are fighting for ALL students, parents, and families within our system. If you happen to be teaching or running a school in an area that does not have families in poverty or with some other socioeconomic or social hardships, please know that these places do exist. And the impact of policies and procedures which (to you) seem to hamper forward progress or seem to not impact ‘your students’; they are there to address the shoreline erosion issues caused by the slow, but destructive processes that operate to wear them down over time.