Note: Apologies for the cultural reference to a film that many may not have seen. I hope the point is not lost!
What I love about the movie “Cars” is its parallels to the socialization of the teenage experience. You know, the struggle against conformity, the young bucks who feel held back by the sage old institutions, the system that beats the spirit out of the young. Sound familiar?
November is upon us. The sister month to March that tries our patience, our energy, and our souls as teachers and administrators. Our discipline referrals are skyrocketing and things are getting dicey as they do every November.
Having said that, stepping back into the classroom has been one of the best administrative decisions that I have made the past several years because it has dipped me back into the biorhythm of the student/teacher experience this time of year and reminded me to listen to that when I am creating an ambitious agenda for faculty meetings. I am teaching a digital literacy class of seniors and they have been getting ornery as of late. I’ve done everything from heart to hearts, detentions, deals, compromises, and my favorite, reminding them that I am the Principal and the one who signs (or doesn’t) their diplomas. (I am joking about the last one but might still use it).
Which brings me to Lightening McQueen. For the past two months now, we have been holding our Lightening McQueens in the garage, teaching them the fundamentals of braking, steering, responsible turning, velocity, etc. etc., which they put up with for several weeks but have not had enough. They want to race around the track. But we are standing in the way.
“Sit down,” we say. “I’m still talking.”
My Lightening McQueen (as with all LMs) has the capacity to make or break my class. He’s breaking it right now because I’m dropping the ball on this digital portfolio thing we’re experimenting with and he wants to race around the track. But I won’t let him for some reason until he understands all the rules. Instead, I hook him up to the road paver (sorry for the movie reference again) and make him demonstrate that he’s going to be more responsible. He resists, of course.
You see, I’ve driven around the track. I have the freedom to do that anytime I want. I’ve had that experience. He hasn’t. But I’m the one standing in his way. He’s revving the engine, and I’m turning it down.
It’s November. It’s time to wave that flag. Lightening might spin out. He might lose control. He might even crash. You can’t avoid that. You can only be there to tell him to try again and that you’re on his side. That’s your job.
Start your engines, we’re going to race right into winter break. And beyond.