Thursday, April 23, 2015

How Does the "Race Metaphor" Affect Our Work?

Is life a race?

Most would argue that it's not a race since the many attributes and experiences that affect our lives are impossible to quantify or compare overall.

Yet, the race metaphor persists in society.

I wonder what this metaphor does to our lives, organizations, communities, and potential.

As we think of the students we teach and those that "win the race" in the traditional ways, what do we notice?

Recently I had to give a system-wide test. Those who scored best, started out way ahead, and those that scored the lowest, started out way behind. Was that a fair race? test? Yet those that scored best felt like they won while those who scored the lowest were demeaned and left feeling like they lost the race.

How can we change the way we do school, and life in general, so that rather than competing we are working with every individual to develop their skill, impact, and experience with depth and breadth? In what ways can we assess strengths, dreams, and challenges early on and then use those assessments to coach growth and development. How can we help to make that growth and development visible as a way to enlist a child's investment, demonstrate his/her growth, and inspire confidence.

I say to my own children, "When you play the compare game, no one wins." The same is true for the "life is a race" metaphor because when we race to the finish line, we miss the rich experience life has to offer.

At Google a few years ago, I had lunch with a man who was working to create better assessments--the kind of assessments that measure quality of life. He told me that he was invested in this work because what we measure tends to define where we put our resources and what we do. I wonder how his work has developed. I wish I had written down his name. I understand the potential his work holds for a better society and better schools.