Yesterday I was driving home from a family holiday in Robe in South Australia. All was going great – we’d made it back into Victoria when I happened to look into the rear vision mirror and noticed the bike racks (with kid’s bikes attached) literally falling off the back of the camper trailer. Of course we stopped, turned around and picked up the tangled mess – the weld joint had broken off on the trailer attachment and the bikes had come off second best. Usually I’d be a bit upset that it had happened and the cost now involved with replacing bikes / repairing trailers, etc. But in the moment there was an enormous sense of the relief that greater damage hadn’t been done and that I’d noticed it at all. At various points there were cars right behind us … I can hardly imagine what would have happened if the bike rack had broken off right into their driving path.
I’ve actually had a few near misses recently when it’s come to cars – in each instance I’ve been find, as have the people in the other vehicle, but it could’ve so easily been a different story. In these moments when the adrenalin has been coursing through my veins and shock draining blood from my head, relief has been the overwhelming response that has come to mind. So much damage could have been done, and yet was somehow minimised. And then ultimately I am thankful, which seems such a strange reaction when you’re sitting at the side of the road staring at a car (or bike) that is now broken.
I wonder whether there are parallels with the way we educate our children these days. In my role as Assistant Principal I increasingly witness a number of causalities when it comes to learning. Blame is often apportioned on the child as the driver of their own education, but in reality it’s a shared responsibility. There are mitigating and complex circumstances in every single case. And so, having tried and failed we pass the child casualty onto someone else to ‘deal with’. If learning has been the causality however, the positive life pulse may take some time to be recovered and it probably won’t come from a formal school setting. There is a sadness in this from parents, carers and the school community.
Yet there are surely many near misses that we don’t necessarily hear about. Whether by accident or design, students are ‘rescued’ and able continue learning in what Sir Ken Robinson would describe as their ‘element’. I suspect more often than not, the rescuing is more via chance than anything else. And we rarely give thanks for it – we’re generally more fixated on the broken elements of the past instead. I’d like to think that as a school community at Warrnambool College we’re trying to design a learning environment that promotes near misses rather than causalities when it comes to personal learning. The great thing about accidents is that, like mistakes, you can learn from them and try to strategise on how to either avoid them in the future or reduce the impact they will have. Of course accidents are also a great way of labelling a particular group of people, presuming they’re at a greater risk of repeating the behaviour and taking the stick approach (in and outside of the classroom). I hope we can be more like the car designers who put in air bags and electronic stability controls for learning than the insurers who simply increase the annual premiums.