Reflections from the round pen

“Looks like we might have a minimalist on our hands” I heard from outside the round pen.  Oh gosh I thought, is that me or Nolan?  Evidently the thought came out of my mouth because I got an answer:  “Well we won’t know until the end of the week.”  

Things were feeling good and probably looked pretty good to most folks but Harry had seen though the façade.  “You all notice how through all of that the horse didn’t look at Mike even one time?”  And he was right.  It might have looked pretty but…  Well Nolan wasn’t really with me because I was always keeping track of him.  In short, I’d created a minimalist.  A partner that could go through the motions (and look a little pretty doing it) but wasn’t really in it.

I’m a nice guy, I’m a supporter.  I’ve always got tabs on him, I’m always searching him out, quietly reminding him, bringing him back.  “Get him keeping track of you” Harry said….and that became the week’s work.  

And you know, at the end of the week we had something very different.  He was more confident, more ready, way more responsive.  He had some ownership in this thing and it seemed to me that felt good to him.  

So here’s the disclaimer:  My mind is really good at making connections.  In fact, my mind is so good at making connections that it can connect things that aren’t connected at all!  And that could sure be the case here.

So read on at your own risk.

A couple years back I remember lamenting to a colleague my disappointment in a pattern I was experiencing with students.  It often seems the more support I give students the worse they seem to perform.  Now that might sound crazy, and maybe it is.  Surly it was crazy of me to have voiced such a feeling.  It does go against the grain a little.  I mean who doesn’t want to support students?  That’s what we do.  Right?

I respond to emails, often within minutes, sometimes at 11pm.  I post announcements and reminders.  I post the lecture slides and outlines of the lectures and on and on and on….(see any parallels yet?)  So often it seems many of them never read or even look at any of it and are fairly disengaged and disinterested.  

I’ve been reflecting on what I learned at this clinic and wondering how it might apply to other parts of my life.  Looking back, some of the best students I’ve had were in semesters before I was doing all this reaching out, posting and reminding I do now.  I’d pass out the syllabus on the first day, go over it once, tell them to write down the important dates, and then start running.  I wasn’t stopping or looking back and they knew they had to keep up, they knew they had to keep track, and they knew that I had faith they’d get it done.  They were ready, they were confident, they were interested.

Have I been creating minimalists?

Or maybe there’s no connection at all.

Published by Mike Deal

I am a husband and father, I am a scientist and teacher, I am a horseman. At night all the "I am's" go in a box and I shut the lid. I sleep like a dog.

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