Sunday, August 7, 2011
When life gives you a windy day go fly a kite.
Today my 5 year-old was disappointed that it wasn't "pool weather" outside. It rained a couple times, the sky was cloudy and it was windy. Instead of letting him sit in the house and watch Backyardigans over and over (which just means headache for me) I got his Buzz Light-Year kite and took both the boys outside to take advantage of the wind. If you know anything about kite flying (which I do not) then you'll know that you cannot just stand there and expect the kite to rise in the air. We had to work together--me holding the string/handle and Nathan holding the kite 30 feet from me trying to toss it up in the air. After a few tries, the wind caught it and up went our kite. We tried to watch Buzz fly up in the sky, but really spent most of our time running around the yard--me pulling on the handle to try to keep him from nose-diving into the yard and both my boys running, trying to catch the ribbon tails spiraling behind the kite.
We were in our backyard, so of course the kite landed in a tree at one point. Did we freak out? Well, Nathan did at first, but I just calmly said it was no big deal, grabbed the ladder, retrieved the kite and got it back up again. When Nathan took over the handle and got used to battling the pull of it, he decided to unravel the string and let the kite go as high as he could. I knew the risks we were running, but I wanted him to have fun and see what would happen. In between wind gusts, our kite landed at the top of a pine tree (way up there!) and got completely tangled. My ladder was useless. So, I went and got the bigger ladder (you know--that really neat ladder that folds all different ways-I'm sure you've seen it on a late night infomercial). I extended the ladder as high as it would go and climbed up 20 feet. While holding on to a tree limb so I wouldn't fall, waved a rake above me to get the kite down.
During our whole kite flying escapade I made several connection between our roles and actions we can take in education. First of all, there are so many things that we cannot control--federal/state/district demands, students' socio-economic status, parent support, budgets, technology glitches, etc. What we can control is what we do with our students during the school day and how we react to situations. Time and time again, I have heard the complaints about "parents these days," "kids these days," "the schedule doesn't allow that" and "insert your complaint here, because I'm sure it's the same at any school." You can complain about a student lacking parent support (which will not help) or you can choose to do your best during the time you have him--build a relationship, help him make goals, teach, give him feedback, and help him achieve his goals. You can throw your hands in the air and say you don't know how to help a student or you can reach out to your Professional Learning Network to find something else to try.
Back to the kite flying: I knew that when I let Nathan unravel all the string for his kite that it would probably mean trouble, but I also knew that he wanted to take that risk and he needed to learn from that experience himself. I know that this is not the best analogy for education, because I would never allow a teacher to do something that I knew would be bad for kids (so please don't read it that way). As administrators, we need to give our teachers autonomy and allow them to take risks so they can reflect and learn along with their students. Todd Whitaker says, "If you didn't learn anything, you probably didn't teach anything either." Two years ago when one of my teachers asked to try teaching with the Daily 5 framework in her classroom, it turned out to be one of the best paid off risks for our students.
My son could have sat in the house all day complaining about the weather wrecking his pool plans, but instead I used the weather and turned into fun. When the wild winds pulled our kite every which way, I could have just let go and let it blow away, but instead I kept moving around with it, trying to keep it up in the air...just as good teachers remain flexible and are able to take student feedback and create teachable moments.