I just finished an interesting novel. I’m not sure where I found it… I think it was on one of those lists of “Books you must read if…”
There is so much to this story, but much of it centers around hair carpets. Yep…hair carpets.
A hair carpet is a carpet that is hand-tied over the lifetime of the carpet maker and made of human hair (specifically the hair of the carpet makers wives and daughters). The entire society is formed around processes supporting this industry…the carpet makers and their sons (who will inherit the profit from the sale of the carpet and then repay the debt by doing the same for his own son), the carpet traders (who buy the carpets in the name of the Emperor), the guild (who police the carpet makers and traders), and the Emperor (who, according to local belief, uses them in his palace).
As the story moves along, visitors from another planet in the galaxy stumble upon this planet and this whole hair carpet thing confuses them greatly. The mystery of how this system came to be and why it continues becomes a focus for this group of visitors. Are these hair carpets things of beauty to be held as magnificent art, or something creepy that is perpetuated by an ancient system that no longer makes sense?
I’m not going to give away any more of the story or go further into detail because there is so much more to it. And I’d love for you to read it yourself…if you’re intrigued by the hair carpets. As you should be.
Finishing this book coincided with listening to the latest #IMMOOC podcast with Katie Martin, George, Shelley Burgess, and Beth Houf. Much of the discussion was around failure, and the notion that taking risks and failing is necessary if we’re going to innovate and get better. Failure isn’t the end point, however. You must FAIL FORWARD and learn from the process to get towards better. Trying a million things isn’t the goal. Trying things that are moving us toward our clear goals is what we’re after. Making sure that all of our actions align with moving us forward on path toward our goal is key.
This brought me back to the hair carpets. And I likened them to what we do in our classrooms.
(In my first year, a veteran teacher called it “making sausage.” She said that after you are told what to do by administration or whoever, you close your door and make sausage. No one really wants to know how the sausage is made, so… As long as it makes it to the plate, it’s all good. I will be switching this analogy to making hair carpets. For obvious reasons. I mean…hair carpets.)
We have these things that we’ve always done. We have these things that were handed down to us. We often continue the cycle of what we’re doing because it is simply what we do.
If a visitor (from another galaxy or otherwise) walks into my classroom, how will they interpret my professional hair carpet? Will it make sense to them because I’m doing what’s best for my learners? Or will it seem ridiculous and out of touch with the world?
Am I making this hair carpet because it is what I’ve always done? Or am I creating a masterpiece that fulfills my goals and dreams?
More important questions… What is my goal? Am I honoring what is important to me through the work we do in my classroom?
The answer is often NO. I have these wonderful ideas for how I want my students to grow and work together, and then I don’t give my students enough time to accomplish what is possible. I throw other things at them. Well meaning things. But they are things that get in the way of accomplishing the things that I think are most important.
I need to be sure that the design of my hair carpet matches the design of my ultimate goals. I want visitors to our learning space to know immediately what we value as a community of learners.
I’m not sure I’ve mentioned hair carpets enough times. Seriously. Hair carpets. I cannot get the image of these things out of my mind.
So…bottom line. What do I want my life’s work/hair carpet to be woven from?
I want my students to know that they are the sum of their strengths, and that (most often) the things that make them amazing and unique and irreplaceable are things that cannot be measured.
I want students to know that they are capable of doing great things and solving the problems that face them.
I want my students to know that their voice and choices matter…every day.
I want my students to know that reading will bring them joy, learning, and connections within and outside of a book’s pages.
I will work harder to make sure that these things are visible and evident to all who enter our learning space. I want those who look upon my hair carpet to immediately see a relevant, magical work of art and not a monstrous, irrelevant waste of time.
Until next time…hair carpets. Read the book. Crazy. And amazing.