Binary of Feelings: Oversimplifying the Spectrum of Human Experience

In reading more on Colin Kaepernick’s protest, I read this opinion and many things about it resonated with me. I especially appreciate this bit about moving the conversation forward:

The rub lies in how we move the conversation forward. Free speech is a right, but it’s also a test for both the speaker and audience. It demands grace and conscientiousness. Criticism of America won’t always be accurate, it won’t always be fair, and it won’t always be delivered in an articulate fashion. There’s nothing wrong with pointing this out. But we need space to disagree on views of America without making the leap to that’s un-American or you aren’t patriotic or you don’t support the troops. These are nothing more than verbal grenades, McCarthyisms designed to denigrate the speaker at the expense of engaging their ideas. It’s cheap, it’s dumb, and it’s beneath us.

Another friend posted this link to a comic by the Oatmeal (some language may be unsafe for work). “I’m not ‘happy’ because our definition of happy isn’t very good. It’s a monochromatic word used to describe rich, painful spectrum of human feeling.” Especially after reading Ross Richendrfer’s Whose America Is It?, it got me to thinking about how many feelings we treat as binary: if you’re not happy, you must be unhappy. If you don’t love America the way I love America, then you must hate America.
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And what problems does this really cause? In a post about undemocratic schools, Will Richardson describes the “race to the bottom” in campaign rhetoric, and how our binary polarization feeds it. Acknowledging spectrum would make room for nuance but might be too complicated for us.

We’ve become a nation of dull-witted consumers of whatever partisan drivel we might subscribe to, preferring  just to cement whatever worldview we already have rather than engage in some type of reasoned conversation that negotiates where the “truth” might actually be.

And this is a scary thing. It’s no wonder one candidate for president proclaims “I love the poorly educated,” because that’s a great way of getting elected these days.

This isn’t good for the health of democracy overall.

Seeing the world critically and not simply accepting what is is a fundamental part of what democratic societies need their citizens to do… I’m talking about “reasoned conversation” of an intellectual type that I don’t think we’ve seen at all this year in the primaries or general election. In fact, at least in politics, I can’t remember the last time I’ve seen two candidates just sit down at a table and have a conversation about something they disagree on with the intent of understanding the other side more fully.

When we treat these issues like a binary, we’re taking shortcuts, we’re jumping to conclusions. We’re putting people into boxes without taking time and energy to try to see and understand their perspective. We’re kind of turning into the mob from the end of Beauty and the Beast.

So what do we do? We begin by acknowledging complexities both in ourselves and in other people. By remembering that we can’t always know someone else’s point of view without listening to them first. Beyond that, I don’t know. I want to build more empathy, cooperation, and democracy into my life and into my classroom. I stand open for suggestions.

School Week Round-Up: Week Two

Oh my goodness, it’s already been another week?

Lessons
Still largely in the setting-up phase, getting used to routines. This takes a little longer for me than most teachers, I think, because I teach an area where so much is trained more than taught.  I try to instruct students in basics of computer use, but so many technology skills develop through repeated use.

And, I only have students once a week. So the routines of transition and direction and troubleshooting feel very rehearsed to me, because I do them every day. But not so for the students.

Ultimately I will be very excited when the routines become fluid enough that I can start facilitating lessons instead of just reinforcing routines.

Support: I feel like we had a better week all around with this. We are, as a school, becoming more familiar with our technology — kids and grown-ups alike. As I predicted, the issues we had with second grade using Chromebooks helped us better prepare for when third and first graders took the diagnostic.

Things I Did Well: Something happened in a second grade class today. In introducing students to Google Classroom, I asked them a question: “What is your favorite kind of candy?” Students happily responded with many missed spellings of the word “chocolate,” among other things. I also allowed them to comment on one another’s responses. I figured this would be a good way to start learning how we communicate online. Students want to be clear so that their peers can understand them. Anyway, what I call “the inevitable thing” happened – the kind of thing that many teachers fear deep down inside. A student wrote something inappropriate! It has teachers shaking in their boots. I’ve feared it myself. We’re afraid the tools will get abused and misused and it scares some folks off tech entirely. What if we can’t stop that kind of thing from happening? What if kids get exposed to inappropriate things!?

Well, I’ve given up on believing “the inevitable thing” will never happen. Because it inevitably does. I don’t have to invite inappropriate things in my classroom, and I certainly don’t have to celebrate them, but I do want kids to know how to handle them when they see them. And another student did see the inappropriate before I did. And they did handle it well! They told me right away so I could delete it and have a conversation with the child who posted it. Turns out it was a misspelling that got out of control. They typed out “ass” and meant to hit “delete” so they could spell “awesome,” but they hit “enter” instead. And, once posted, a comment cannot be edited! But this child was right chagrined so I believe they were telling the truth. Obviously if mild cusses keep appearing I’ll be glancing sidelong their way, but since you can’t post anonymously on Google Classroom, I don’t think that will be happening.

So, we all survived “Mild Cuss-Gate.” Well learned all around, everyone.

Things I Will Do Better: I also had a classroom management challenge. Sometimes it really is a balancing act, when multiple students need a little guidance, and one or two students need more close supervision, and you’re only one adult. How do you prioritize actual human children? Sometimes I did okay. Sometimes I did less than okay. And at least once I utterly failed. Classroom management was the biggest challenge of my early career; and while I’ve spent a lot of time and effort improving it overall, I still have my struggles in this area.

Cold Prickly: Remember how I was going to eat lunch in the cafeteria with the kids every day? I found a downside.

Warm Fuzzy: This week I told a first grader I liked her hairstyle. She told me if I liked it, I should try to wear my hair that way. So I did!

braidsShe wore it better, to be honest. I think the other adults thought I looked goofy; many kids told me I looked beautiful. I think everyone was correct.

Tomorrow’s a teacher work day, so kids got a four day weekend and teachers get a three day weekend. Well deserved all around, I say! Looking forward to more September!