Saturday, February 21, 2015

Cussing the Dog

If Richard Sherman were a dog, he would be my parent's Border Collie, Clancy.  Smart, athletic, and possessing a superior understanding of the game, Clancy and Richard are unique and fun to watch.  My parents bought Clancy when they made an ill-fated foray into the sheep and goat business. For those who have not been around sheep and goats, those pictures of docile creatures and little shepherd boys in illustrated kids' Bibles are a serious misrepresentation. Truth be told, after David spent his formative years dealing with mean-spirited billies, the whole Goliath fight really isn’t as uneven a match as some have portrayed it. 

So enter Clancy. My folks needed help with the sheep and goats and a well-trained dog was just the ticket.  Clancy was raised on the farm and then went away to herding college when she reached the appropriate age.  She came home a steely-eyed missile man.  Mom learned the commands and signals and it was a treat to watch.  Just like watching Richard Sherman go one on one with Duane Bowe, those sheep and goats never had a chance.  Clancy could separate them out, round them up, and generally put them wherever mom’s hand signals and commands told her. 

Not long after Clancy and the goats arrived at the farm south of Bunker Hill, Dad had a severe heart attack. He was in the hospital for an extended time, so my brother and I were enlisted to help out with the chores.  This probably seemed like a good idea at the time.  One of our assignments (even in his internment in the hospital, Max was able to relay written instructions to his two greenhorn hands) was to load up some goats to haul to the sale.  The task of getting about twenty ill-tempered mindless goats into a trailer was left to me, my brother, and Clancy. 

The truck and trailer were readied and we began to herd the goats.  Clancy was watching our incompetent work with some disdain until a goat broke loose from the herd.  In our excitement, either my brother or I yelled and pointed at the errant beast. What we did not realize is that we had apparently given the signal for “Clancy, kill the goat.”  Like a rocket-propelled missile, Clancy launched herself at the goat and attacked.  Before we could yell $#@+!, Clancy had the goat by the neck and on the ground.  Growling, barking, baaing, cussing, and blood was everywhere. Neither of us knew the signal for resuscitate the goat so we did our best and finally separated the unevenly matched fighters.  Animal rights activists need to know that we also learned that a goat's ear has a lot of blood vessels and the blood was from a small wound.  No goats were killed or seriously injured in this debacle, but many lessons were learned.

The moral of this story is that what we had was a severe case of failure to communicate.  Clancy, my brother, and I had no ill intentions for the goat and we were all just trying to do our job.  If we had taken the time to learn a few hand signals, the whole incident (which until this telling has been kept secret from the gentleman farmer who owned the goats) could have been avoided.

The moral can be applied to so many aspects of our lives and business, but my purpose here is to make a point about what is happening in Kansas politics this Spring. Whether you identify with Clancy or her handlers, we have some kids to care for and we are not communicating.  We have a severe financial crisis to deal with and are not having a genuine meaningful conversation about it because neither side has taken the time to learn the other's language.  Cash reserves: schools have big stashes of money because they don’t care about kids; or, cash reserves are a way to deal with rainy-day situations like we are in right now?  Increasing teacher salaries are proof that we have plenty of money, or the result of short-term fixes that cannot be sustained and necessary because of increasing demand for trained workers? Schools have more money than they have ever had before, or schools have less real operating funds than ever before?
 

Educational leaders know how to have hard conversations.  We start with seeking first to understand, and then to be understood.  Have we taken the time to listen and learn or have we become so caught up in the task of loading the goats that we are just cussing the dog?

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