Tuesday, November 11, 2008

You Haven't Seen Bravery Until You Draw the Short Straw And Have to Clean the Compound's Fridge. Leo Longfellow On the RYS Effect.

I've been putting my moldy brain to RYS and its impact lately. I know I enjoy reading the stories, most of them more horrific than my own boring tales of bothersome students and braindead Deans. But as a social scientist I'm always interested in how shared constructs (like this blog, for example) affect participants, in this case the RYS readers.

The RYS Effect, I'd guess, could be measured if there was some data, even anecdotal, and that seems like a worthwhile enterprise to me.

What happens to us when we hear horror stories of terrible students? I know that the first few pieces I read on RYS made me thankful for my own job, my relatively peaceful existence, and my students, who - for the most part - have never made me crazy enough to want to write to you about them.

But as I've read more and more, I've discovered a sort of power in RYS that I'd not imagined.

I think the RYS effect is bravery. The pieces that resonate the most with me, the ones that stick to my soul - if you will - are ones like this morning's Deadwood Darren. I found it thrilling. It was a piece of real theater, and I've been in enough classrooms to know that he did the right thing, but still a brave thing. I am at least 90% sure that I'd not done the same, nor would I have even thought of it. But when he threw that bill down AND walked out, I learned something, and I cheered him like nobody else I can think of in quite some time.

When I was a boy, my mother and aunt both were teachers, and on long summer weekends they'd pull me out of the alley or off the baseball field and teach me things I did not want to know. My aunt read to me, and to this day I remember sitting in the attic of our house, no air conditioning, my head out the window finding the only breeze I could find, and hearing her voice read Longfellow. I don't remember much from that, but I remember a line about bravery. (I've had to look it up, sorry Auntie.)

There's a brave fellow! There's a man of pluck! A man who's not afraid to say his say, Though a whole town's against him. (from "John Endicott")

"Not afraid to say his say," indeed. That's the RYS Effect, for those willing to feel it, to accept it.

Darren Deadwood, don't beat yourself up. Those of us who are listening are with you, and one day we will be brave enough to join you.