What’s At The End Of The Tube?

574. Join me in inspiring truly powerful people. Each day I will add a new thought, story or idea to support your quest and mine.

Louise was my seatmate on the flight from Lincoln to Denver. She was on her way to meet friends in Santa Fe and I was making the trek back home from working with my beloved Hastings friends. The plane was still at the gate when she looked at her watch and said, “We’ve only been talking for two minutes and we’re already into the deep stuff.” We laughed because we both knew our conversation would go deeper and deeper throughout our flight.

She was a nurse. During the first half of her career she worked at burn units and trauma centers. She told me it was time to move on when she began to feel more like a mechanic than a nurse. “One day,” she said, “I realized that I was adjusting heart monitors and manipulating multiple gadgets with nine tubes that just happened to have a human attached. It was all about assessment and paperwork.” She was quiet for a moment and then added, “Of course it was all about monitoring the person but over time our focus became more and more about the machines. I missed the eye contact, the human touch.”

I told her that teachers are experiencing the same thing. We have gone so assessment crazy and are so test driven that we’ve lost the center; the purpose is no longer to support the health, wellbeing and growth of our children: we routinely toss out the health and wellbeing part for a higher score. And, as hard as they try, our teachers are more and more required to monitor the machine which means they have less and less capacity to actually teach. It’s worth noting that teaching and learning are fundamentally relational. Assessment is mechanical. Our children are like the patient with hundreds of tubes attached; we’ve lost the essential human contact in our mania for monitoring and will be in an educational death spiral until we return to the human center.

The theme is so common that I can only believe that this assessment frenzy is an expression of culture. What is it that drives us to toss away a vital beating heart so we can put the communal body on life support? Marketers know my buying patterns. Google assesses and optimizes my searches, my preferences are logged, tracked and utilized; we are the most polled populace that has ever walked the earth. We know so much about ourselves and at the same time we know almost nothing. Do you know your neighbors? Is the world as divided and dangerous as the news would have us believe (according to the numbers, it is safer. Do you feel it?)? We are standing in a blizzard of information and as in all blizzards we’ve lost sight of what’s immediately in front of us.

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