I have always had a slight problem when entering an ice cream shop. Choices. Usually, I walk in and I see one freezer case with 8 tubs of ice cream. This is great. But inevitably, this was just a break in the WHOLE counter and if I just shimmy down a few more steps, 3 more freezers materialize, thus adding another myriad of choices. You’d think this would be a delight. More often than not, I panic before I even read all the flavour names and default to mint chocolate chip. Drat! Too many choices has left me not able to make just one.
During my year end survey last year, an overwhelming theme rose to the top: prepare a calendar of events so we are aware of our choices. We (students) have very busy lives and must schedule family obligations, school, work, athletics, relationships, volunteerism, saving for the future, and walking the dog. In order for us to prioritize events, we’d like to be aware of our choices to make the best decisions.
I have been thinking about this all week as I’ve been visiting schools. Prior to take off, I was pretty impressed with myself. I am in my second year of the job, and have been learning about what worked and what needs improvement. I planned my visits, arranged my agenda, got my ducks in a row. Students spoke, I listened. I am ready to roll.
And then I actually stepped into the classes and went through my choices with the students. Hmmm…. I don’t think I am getting the response I had assumed would happen. A few gleaming eyes and head nods, but overall, a general sense of, “what just happened here?”
I have laid out the whole semester for them. I have arranged field trips to different locations, post secondary campuses (both college and university), and in different subject disciplines. I made sure I had range of costs. I worked some into the school day and others beyond. I have also offered in-school events and speakers. I have offered both academic and non-academic pursuits. Bam! On the table.
My 31 flavours dilemna. While the only reason I organized myself in this fashion was to respond to their requests, it didn’t really seem like the correct approach. It seemed very clear I was throwing way too much at them at one time. If you can visualize teens saying “Wait, what?”, that’s basically what I was looking out and seeing. Instead of the hordes of students rushing to sign up, I had a lot of polite “thank you’s” and a quiet filing out of the room.
So I think I have managed to over-organize myself. I have the whole semester planned out, but the students aren’t really ready to have it presented to them in this fashion. In the past, I tried to just mention 2 things at a time and get immediate sign ups. Students will not sign up for an event at the end of May when it’s on the beginning of February. Who knows what can happen between now and then? And frankly, I don’t blame them.
So, what to do? I thought I was responding to the student need. And while I might have correctly pieced it together, it didn’t garner the response I had hoped. I think maybe I need to find a balance in between delivering a piece and the whole. Also, it may appeal to some, but not others, I can’t please everyone all the time.
While I still feel that too many choices might overwhelm some and have them default to what they know, others may in fact thrive on that knowledge and make the best decision for them. It might change from year to year, so I can’t get comfortable in any one way to deliver material. That keeps me fresh but also susceptible to some failure. I guess I wouldn’t learn without it, so even though I was met with some glossy eyes, I’m going to keep moving forward and making connections. Even if I’m only helping one student at a time, that is meaningful. So while mint chocolate chip is still a good choice, I’m going to branch out and occasionally try something new. I’ll even take suggestions.