“I think I can. I think I can.”
– The Little Engine that Could
Friday, I was supposed to catch the bus from Philadelphia up to New York.
I was performing in an improv show at the Magnet Theater, so the timing was somewhat important.
When I arrived at the bus’ point of departure – no bus.
Thinking perhaps things had changed, I walked to the other side of the block to see if we were boarding somewhere new.
I turned the corner just in time to see the bus mounting the on-ramp wihtout me. It had left 5 minutes early.
I hurried to the train station to plan an alternative route.
A regional rail train was scheduled to depart 20 minutes later.
I like trains.
I knew where the train would be.
I knew when it would depart.
If it was running late, the station signage would alert me to the delay.
Once on the train, I could ask the conductor at any time when we’d be arriving and he’d be able to tell me.
We arrived two minutes ahead of schedule.
Now, I’m an adaptable guy. I can go with the flow and appreciate when my environment affords me the opportunity to experiment with ideas and actions – to improvise.
Still, my life and my classroom require a certain element of train-ness.
For my students to play with ideas without fear of reproach, they must know certain consistencies exist. They must know we will begin and end on schedule, that I can update them on our progress at any moment and that they are on track. Knowing they are headed safely in the direction of their goals, my students can focus on the journey to understanding and reflect on what happens along the way.
In my professional life, I require some train-ness as well. I need to know those responsible for my conveyance along the journey won’t keep me guessing as to the time and place of departure. I need to know the intended destination will not change after we’ve left the station. I need to be able to ask about our route, our progress and our expected arrival at any point and know I’ll get a straight answer. I need to know we’ll press on when something blocks our way rather than abandoning our route. Moreover, I need to know I’m safe.
The train took more time than the bus. The train was more expensive than the bus.
The train got me where I needed to go.