Break the Speed Limits, Mind the Stop Signs | Ecology of Education

Break the Speed Limits, Mind the Stop Signs

When working with teachers, a colleague of mine often asks, “Why do people speed?”

The inevitable list of reasons include but are not limited to:

  • time
  • lack of awareness
  • everyone else is doing it
  • just going with the flow
  • no-one else is around
  • etc, etc, etc.

Her response is always, “Hmmmm. No-one mentioned it was to annoy the police?” At which point everyone realizes her analogy. The question, “Why do students act out?” often leaves us educators feeling that it is to annoy us, but more often than not, they aren’t doing whatever they are doing because of us — its more about them, their developmental age, and school culture’s unexamined rules of the road.

Then she asks, “Why do people stop at read lights and stop signs?”

The reason is fairly predictable:

  • Safety

The stop sign/red light have a clear purpose and reason for existing. We follow that rule (usually) because the consequences of not following it could be dire.

What are the elements of your room, your school that are the red lights and stop signs and which are the speed limits? The rules that (most) students follow for one reason or another and the ones that students routinely bend?

I wonder these things because it seems differentiating “discipline” is important in teaching the whole child. Perhaps students break the “speeding” rules because they don’t see the point, or it is easiest and safest to “go with the flow,” or because they aren’t even aware of them.

Or perhaps they inhibit the kind of learning that drives students.

Do I issue “tickets” (consequences) for rules that may lack relevance to the students or do I focus on the red lights and stop signs that align with student safety — emotional, physical, social?

As I evolve as an administrator, it seems that when it comes to speeding, my focus should be on the culture of the school and helping cultivate an atmosphere where autonomous individuals can discern the nuance of when is the right time to press the gas and the right time to ease off.

When it comes to the stop signs and red lights, these are the rules of the road that allow us to take the kinds of risks learners need to in order to have transformative learning experiences. These are the rules that need to be understood and agreed to.

For now, I think I’ll let the (reasonable) speeders slide and will focus instead on building understanding about the stop signs that make the school a better place for us all.

Photo Credit: Braden Gunem via Compfight cc

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