Question 103 of 365: Who is watching out for whom?

A digital picture of a candy apple, taken by L...
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I had never dressed up for Halloween until I became a teacher. It just wasn’t something we did in my family. But, when I became a middle school teacher, it was definitely an expectation. So, I was Peter Pan and Poneyboy a couple of times and it was never a really big deal. Not until I had Isabelle and Tobias did I really understand the true nature of Halloween. And while dressing up my children in their first costumes was a big deal for me, I think that it only amounts to a rite of passage in the end. The real power of Halloween is in the trick or treating event. The very idea that soliciting strangers is expected is foreign to me. I always felt embarrassed to go up someone’s walkway unannounced, must less do it in a disguise. But my daughter gracefully asked for her fair share of candy, even making specific requests a number of times. To her, this was what you were supposed to do on such an evening.

This year she was a Dragonasaurus (half dragon, half dinosaur) and my son was a chicken. Tobias had just learned to walk fairly well when we put him in this outfit that was just too small. We ended up cutting out the feet so that he could fit in it. As he walked down our too-narrow sidewalks, he tried to carry his candy bag. After one particularly successful stop on our route, another adult in our party was hurriedly trying to get to the next house with his daughter. This man ran directly over Tobias and knocked him to the ground, face first. His nearly-new teeth met the sidewalk, only protected by his lips, which immediately started to swell and bleed. As we tried to comfort him (and carry him the rest of the way), I couldn’t help but contemplate what exactly this other adult was thinking in moving so fast or so recklessly.

Tobias could have been seriously injured due to someone else’s lack of awareness. Luckily, his lips didn’t split and the snow on the ground provided a wonderful ice pack for him. Oh, and opening a few chocolate pieces of Halloween candy seem to ease the situation somewhat. Although, Tobias wasn’t watching out for the adults either, he probably just assumed that they would more likely look out for him so that he doesn’t have to. I know that I have forgiven this adult for hurting my child, but I am still not entirely convinced that he will really be much more aware in the future.

And that is pretty much the way I feel about big and little companies, large and small projects and expanding and contracting schools. I know that many of them have run over smaller entities in order to get somewhere new, but I don’t think that many are really learning from that experience. Many large companies continually give fat lips to those without as much balance or grace, rather than simply guiding them along and making sure that they are the ones that can take credit for the small companies success. The startup is little and untrained, and doesn’t really know where it is going. If an established firm really wants to get at the sweet rewards that the startup is collecting (is that stretching the metaphor a bit far?), it is much better to guide the startup along the path, investing in its future earnings. That way, when you count out the bounty, the large companies can take their cut (perhaps the largest and most complex profits that the startup would really be able to digest fully).

As for projects and schools, I believe that there really is an aspect of collaboration that is being lost in running over the small pilot program in favor of the high-profile endeavor. Just like the mass produced costume that many kids wear, the large project seems like a sexy alternative to a boutique solution that really fits a given situation. Whether in a national charter school or a top down IT-based initiative, the price of a packed solution seems to be justified simply by the fact that it comes shrinkwrapped. The hand-sewn answer, while perhaps not as pretty, is one that we hold onto for years. It is the one that stays with us and builds a mythology all its own. We tell stories about its creation, rather than create reports on why we have moved on to something else. We hand it down to others, who remake it to fit their own needs rather than watch it deteriorate and be thrown away at the first sign of diminishing returns.

I would like us to watch out for the creative costume or the littlest solicitor. Because it is through them that we will learn the most about how to do our jobs better. It is through them that we will find a balance that we so desperately seek. And it is through them that we can become joyful about the process of going and asking for others to support what it is that we need: whether that is candy or a living.

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