It’s okay not to win

“I need some time with my favorite cheerleader,” he said.

My friend had been having a discouraging patch at his high school teaching job in a disadvantaged area. These tough kids weren’t listening AT ALL.

“They keep asking to go to the bathroom. My class is only an hour and a half long. They can hold it! They start getting up without permission and I have to go over the rules again…”

I have been reading a book: Executive Presence.  The author talks about how important it is to present yourself properly, and how to command a room.

It is focussed on women. She gives a statistic that people are more confident in women who wear a lot of makeup.

I have to wear more makeup?

It can be challenging to keep your appearance right in a male-centric environment. One female orchestra conductor was describing how careful she is to wear the right clothing to cover her backside as she leads her orchestra through their music.

“It’s important to get it right” she says. They she sighs and adds, “I just don’t ‘know any women who do.”


Is that how it is?

What game are we playing, in which we are supposed to meet a standard that no one can model proficiency in?

I was listening to my friend, a male teacher describe how he was re-iterating the rules for his unruly student. I heard his frustration and desperation.

“Wait, wait…” I said. “They know the rules. Every time you re-explain the rules  you are playing their game.”


“Yeah! They know they rules! They know they aren’t supposed to get out of their seats and that they have to wait their turn.

But in their world it they have seen it demonstrated again and again that they have no power. Those teenagers don’t have any of the levers of power. Their parents don’t even have any power. These kids are sure that the best they can hope for is a fifteen dollar an hour job at Home Depot, and that’s if they are lucky.

So what can they do?

There is no point to making the effort to learn how to program a computer, That’s hard, AND a big risk for looking like a fool.  I can understand that they want to avoid that.

So they poke at you to make you dance. They don’t have much power, but they can drive you crazy. And when they make you repeat stuff they already know, every second you spend re-explaining the dumb rules they already know– they have power.  THEY changed their environment.”

I could hear him pausing on the phone line, seeing the picture I was painting.

I continued, “Spend the least possible amount of time re-telling they what they know. Yeah, they are not going to stop pulling the stupid stunts, but you don’t have to engage. Bring it back around to your game.

Talk about how coding makes their world better, and that they CAN do it.”

It’s really easy to fall into the mud hole that someone sets up. It even feels like you’re doing the right thing. Sometimes we are.

Life and learning is messy. People, relationships and the doing of things are all muddy and sloppy.

The mess comes with. .It’s a rare day that has none.

So the female conductor who is trying to find the right shoes and outfit to keep people from paying attention to her butt probably needs to come to terms with the reality that her butt will always be with her. People will always see it.

“It’s important to get it right. I just don’t know any women who do.”

I would suggest it’s important to try to get it right, while realizing that it’s the work of SIsyphus. You will not achieve the goal.

And the students will never stop poking and trying to make my teacher-friend dance to their tune.

You have to get it right.

And you never will.

And it’s important to keep trying.