Max Smart was a wonderful character who was forever fighting the forces of evil, personified as Kaos agents. Max and the beautiful, intelligent Agent 99 blundered their way to victory every time, against enormous odds and with clever humour.
Kaos, as a name, was a wonderful play on words. Chaos is the correct name and the Second law of Thermodynamics suggests the world will always lose to chaos, unless energy is provided to reverse the natural downward trend. Nature – especially living things – finds ways to defeat the inevitable, with photosynthesis in plant life being the primary example. So life needs energy every day to overcome the inevitable.
But we can have some crushing defeats too. Last Monday, perhaps in an early morning haze, I opened an invoking email from my electricity supplier AGL or so I thought. In a matter of a minute the rogue virus within the email had encrypted every document I had written for the past twelve months at ATC. Class material, debating notes, Excel files and a host of similar material. It was like an IT bushfire. I had nothing left to salvage. Chaos certainly happens and one’s response can easily be “weeping and gnashing of teeth”. I managed to find some important documents because I remembered emailing them to colleagues but the others were totally useless.
The rest of that Monday I spent making alternate teaching plans and keeping an eye on the NFL Super Bowl. The New England Patriots were not having a great day either, being 3 – 28 behind well into the third quarter, playing their Super Bowl game against the very slick Atlanta Falcons.
I read that at this stage of the game, the Falcons were 99.6% chance of winning or the Patriots were 4 /1000 chance of winning. Yet amazingly the Patriots did win, yet another unusual win, to match similar victories in sport and in politics last year.
In this game, there was no real turning point. There was a gradual shift that picked up momentum to provide an exciting draw at regular time then an amazing finish in extra time soon after. YouTube glimpses showed the Patriots champion Tom Brady and his leading players talking incessantly “one play at a time” and “there was always time”. The Atlanta team did not suddenly play poorly, rather the Patriots started to play marginally better, with optimism, chanting “you have got to believe”- no doubt sprinkled with some timely good luck. But they turned chaos around. I went home that afternoon thinking that maybe I did not really need those encrypted files and a fresh start might be at least okay.
This year at Ambrose Treacy College we think we can generate our own victory over an agent of chaos. As a school we have set ourselves a task of lifting the average of each year into a B level. This is an improvement of about half a level, e.g. a C to B- or a C+ to a B. One of our strategies to achieve this, is to overcome the chaos that is our students’ writing. The target is the chaos of sentence fragments, imprecision and lack of fluency. We have engaged outside help to build capacity amongst the staff to do this and with a good dose of “you got to believe” we will embark on this in some form in every class in every year level.
We are aiming for small increments of improvements for all students across the three areas mentioned (sentence fragments, imprecision and lack of fluency) which collectively should give both individual and group success. To quote the American fiction writer Octavia Butler, “You don’t start out writing good stuff. You start out writing crap and thinking it’s good stuff and then gradually you get better at it. That’s why I say one of the most valuable traits is persistence”.
Chaos is not meant to win while we have a plan and the energy to oppose it.
Greg Quinn, Assistant Dean of Learning