Recently I was visiting a teacher’s classroom recently to work on building a distributed review calendar to prepare her students for an AP test. We were going over the strategies when I heard a rustling in the opposite corner. At first, I ignored it but it became more and more insistent as we talked. Finally, I stopped talking and asked, “Excuse me but do you hear that?”
She cocked her head and listened for a moment. Then she got up and walked over to the trash can in the corner and kicked it. The container shook for a few seconds then out jumped two mice who raced around its base before scattering under the radiator.
Now, I am a city girl and have seen a mouse or two in my lifetime so I am embarrassed to say what happened next. I jumped on top of a desk and screamed and clapped my hands while hopping from foot to foot. The teacher jumped back screamed herself until she turned and spied me on top of the desk. She doubled over in laughter then walked over to me. “It’s okay Robyn,” she giggled as she reached up to help me climb down. “It was just a couple of mice.”
For the rest of our meeting, I was so busy looking for another mouse that I couldn’t concentrate on my work with the teacher. She was so busy teasing me about my paranoia that she couldn’t concentrate on her work with me. The mice had gotten us completely off track.
In education, there are a lot of mice out there. I don’t just mean the literal mice that prowl our buildings and nibble on our emergency stash of m-and-m’s from time to time. I am talking about all those little distractions that, while startling, quickly go away but wreck our focus and keep us from concentrating on the important parts of our jobs. Silly new paperwork requirements that are frustrating but can be knocked out in 20 minutes if we didn’t spend 40 minutes complaining about them. Another student added to our rosters who might be behind but could quickly get caught up if we didn’t make him redo the entire semester so that our gradebooks would be balanced. An interruption to the schedule that while inconvenient can be managed without too much hassle if only we got creative.
All of these things can be startling, inconvenient, maddening even but, ultimately, they’re just minor distractions and we have the choice about whether we let them take our focus off of what is really important.
When they show up we can either climb on top of the desk and scream our heads off, or we can go on over and kick the trash can, send them scattering, then get back to work.