All Our Times Have Come
Growing up, my dad always had a few cows, chickens, and the occasional pig or rhea (he liked to take risks outside of education too). He was a high school teacher by day, a farmer by evening/night and any spare minute he had available, and a preacher on Sundays and Wednesdays (and I wonder where my propensity for being a Mad Hatter, aka multiple hat wearer, comes from). Dad decided one day that we needed fresh eggs. He grew up on a farm in Louisiana, so he bought chickens and a rooster. My brother, sister, and I thought of these new additions to our small farm as pets, so we named them. My parents, though, named the rooster. His name was Cocky Locky, a name that still drives a shot of fear into my heart when I hear it (or think about it as I write this).
That rooster. He served a purpose in fertilizing the eggs, which my dad wanted, and that worked well for a time. As he grew into his spurs, we noticed that Cocky Locky began to exhibit more aggressive behaviors. In fact, he would charge anyone who came into the yard when he was out of his chicken run. We often let the chickens out for an afternoon since they did a great job eating grasshoppers, ticks, and other pestilence. But Cocky became less useful as he grew older. He became dangerous.
Here But Now They’re Gone
A rooster? Dangerous? Yes. Ever checked out rooster spurs? Want one in your leg or back? Not cool. What started out as a simple way to manage egg production soon became a problem. That rooster, Cocky Locky, would stalk us when in the yard. He would come at us. Soon, Dad had to make sure my sister and I were not outside when he let the chickens out. Brian, my brother, could venture out but only because he practiced kicking the football if Cocky Locky rushed him. Of course, that rooster was the football, but he soon learned to be careful around my brother.
You see, the warning signs were there. What once started out as a great idea, harmless, and actually useful, had become something else entirely. Something harmful to children (See where I’m headed with this?) We get enamored of an idea, program, practice, or routine, and then we never see, until it is too late, that we have let it become something toxic or harmful to students. It seems safe because it is easy and comfortable. It was easy to open the gate to the run and let the chickens out into the yard, even when that included Cocky Locky and his aggression, his spurs. Even when his time ran out, we didn’t see it coming. We didn’t think twice about restricting my sister and I into remaining in the house while the rooster reigned in the yard. Began to seem normal. We began to accept it. I might have been robbed of hours more time that I could have been outside, but oddly enough, Cocky Locky wrote his own death sentence.
Seasons Don’t Fear The Reaper
Dad had to fix something in the old horse barn on our property one Saturday morning, so he put on his tool belt and walked down to the barn. He saw what needed to be fixed and got to work. He knelt on the barn floor, in the straw, with his back to the door. In walked Cocky Locky. The rooster didn’t make a peep. Dad made more than a peep when the rooster jumped him, landing a spur near Dad’s eye as he turned to get the rooster off of him. Unfortunately for Cocky Locky, Dad was now dripping blood and armed with newly found conviction and a hammer.
That was the last day that my sister and I couldn’t play outside because of a rooster. We were free again. There’s still some residual fear of roosters that I feel when I see one. I even keep a careful eye on any loose chickens that come near me too. As we begin this school year, keep a careful eye on those programs, beliefs, practices, and systems we impose upon teachers and students. Are they stifling creativity? Learning? Love of reading? Is the harm in the implementation rather than the tool? Are we creating scars in our students that will still have lingering effects when they are adults? Have we asked our students how these make them feel? Today is the day. Ask those questions and observe the effects of these programs and systems on our students and teachers.
Nor Do the Wind, the Sun or the Rain, We Can Be Like They Are
When I was in school, I was forbidden to use a calculator on some problems because I would never be walking around with a calculator in my pocket. That seemed reasonable then, but now I walk around with one in my pocket daily. Do we still tell students they have to memorize and do math without the calculator? Are we still clear on the why? (No slam on math teachers. I have the utmost respect for them, but it is a practice that I mull over in my head from time to time). Growing up, I also had to have an encyclopedia to find out every scrap of information on any topic that interested me. Now I have Google, which coincidentally, is in my pocket with my calculator, map, phone, and homework. Textbooks were created as a way, the only way, teachers could access all of the stories, explanations, historical information, and more that they needed for their lessons, all in one place. Now with a few clicks on a device, we can access the stories, audiobooks, interviews, videos, news reports, you name it. Times have changed.
Come On Baby, Don’t Fear the Reaper
I listened to Branson (Missouri) business man, Nolan Fogle, who recently spoke to our students and made me rethink another idea, and it ties in nicely with the Cocky Locky lesson. He said to the students as he discussed his life, work ethic, grit, and the bit of luck that has made him successful, that he does not agree with the statement that we should find a way to get paid for doing what we love because then we’ll never work a day in our life. I’ve used that statement and thought I agreed with it. Until now. Nolan said that he disagrees because what we like or love changes. There are jobs out there that won’t exist in 5 or 10 years, and some will be created then that don’t exist now. We may love those new jobs and shouldn’t be so fixed on the one thing we do now that we miss out on those opportunities. That’s a paraphrase, but you get the idea.
Baby Take My Hand, Don’t Fear the Reaper
We need to keep our thinking fluid when it comes to educating our students. We don’t know what their future will be like, so we need to prepare them for that uncertainty, prepare them to be adaptable, and we need to let them out in the yard. Grab a hammer. Put an end to anything you have that is currently harmful to students. It’s okay to let it die now. Change is good.