Monday, February 07, 2011

The expectations trap

Four months ago we learned lessons from two family bicycle outings. One was an educational failure. The follow-up was a memorable success.

No denying, I was proud of that one. I wouldn't have thought it possible just three years before. If we weren't willing to risk failure, we wouldn't established a new baseline.

That's why I was willing to try another crazy idea. This time we tried a mass nordic ski event after dark in unfamiliar territory. This went well beyond last year's Nordic ski resort.

We applied what we'd learned. We studied satellite maps of the ski route and the surrounding territory, developing and revising our primary and backup plans. We researched parking in detail. We took a car and drove the route at night -- that's how we learned event map's major parking area was now a massive hole in the ground. We adjusted our plans accordingly. I took both our special needs guys with me on the event day to collect our race bibs -- so they could see the parking and starting area in daylight.

We left early on event day, which meant we got the prime parking garage rather than our fallback option. At the event we adjusted plans; one of our guys needed to race, so we aborted a rendezvous and left ten minutes early.

It was easy. The only glitch was a bit of overheating while fussing with race bibs indoors. I expected to need more of our contingency plans. As it was, I had only to track the son who's prone to getting lost. His brother with the oddball savant visual abilities raced far ahead, and, as expected, materialized from darkness whenever we reached a stopping area.

It was easy, but maybe it was too easy. Now I need to wonder if I've fallen into an expectations trap.

The expectations trap is what happens around 9th grade in most schools. Instead of the slow, tedious, work of developing reading and other academic skills, teaching focuses on "social skills". These can be fun for all involved, but for some it's too easy. They could do better. The expectations trap is inside the comfort zone; it closes options too soon.

I think I need to move my expectations up.


No comments: