snooze–turn off the alarm

According to the deconstructionist Jacques Derrida, there is a gap between the signifier and the signified; in other words, when we say something, it often fails to truly convey the essence of what we mean. In this inadequacy–the gap between the word and what lies beneath it–there is room to play. With that in mind, I’d like to return to playing with another metaphor to talk about education.

On my dark and snowy drive to work early this morning, I listened to a story on NPR about “alarm fatigue.” The story explained the necessity of alarms in a hospital, as well as the detriments.

“Alarm fatigue is when there are so many noises on the unit that it actually desensitizes the staff,” says Deborah Whalen, a clinical nurse manager at the Boston hospital. “If you have multiple, multiple alarms going off with varying frequencies, you just don’t hear them.”

In many ways, a hospital is like a school and vice versa. There are varying tiers of neediness, differentiated staff roles, outside accountability, diagnostic and responsive treatments, budget constraints, and the constant threat of catastrophe hovering heavy on the minds and hearts of stakeholders (at least in a turnaround school environment).

I for one can attest to the escalation of “alarm fatigue” in the education world. Every assessment means everything. Every lesson carries the burden of the world. Every moment with students holds within in it the potential for good or evil. Every piece of data is earth-shattering.

Just this week, after administering another assessment, my colleagues and I were discussing how the students tend to dismiss this test and not put forth effort. To which I responded so quickly and naturally it even surprised me: “Of course not; when you’re inundated with assessments, how do you know which ones matter? Which ones to try on?”

When so many alarms are sounding, how does one distinguish the “real” emergency from the “manufactured” emergency, or the “false” emergency, or…

To address this I’d like to further the hospital metaphor. We all must turn our attention from the alarm–from the data–to the patient–to the student. When my Mom was in the hospital, she had many monitors beeping and clicking and whizzing. I valued those. But what I treasured more was how the people–the nurses, the doctors, the custodians–utilized those machines as a way to serve my Mom, the patient, the person. The brief moment of eye contact, the timely response to the call button, the warm hug, the bringing of a heated blanket, the wet washcloth, sometimes even the switching off of the monitors so we could talk or be in peace, this in the end provided more for us than the endless chatter of alarms.

Whalen says it’s a clear case of less is more.

“I think less is better,” Whalen says. “If you have more and more data, more and more alarms, more and more technology — [it’s] bad data in, bad decisions made.”

Bad data. Bad alarms. Bad decisions.  When we are tirelessly toiling under the weight of the next failed assessment or discouraging data, we allow those to become the means and the ends, rather than the means to the ends. 

I only hope those in power see the liability of “alarm fatigue” in education, and that we return to a renewed focus on treating–teaching–the student. Only then will we all find healing.

Advertisements

3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. edpeters06
    Jan 29, 2014 @ 03:07:35

    Beautifully said. I love your metaphors.

    Like

    Reply

  2. DM
    Feb 22, 2014 @ 17:19:53

    Two things..first, I came to your blog via Kelsey’s blog ( http://kelseymunger.com/ ) Secondly, reading this I realize I have ” media induced / crisis in America fatigue”. I have pretty much detached myself from current events, period. It sounds weird, saying it, and as I try to wrestle with what I mean..it’s just that because of the constant bombardment of negativity and fear via talk radio and what passes for “news” in general, I have a disconnect emotionally from most of it… decided to subscribe to your blog..read several thought provoking posts. 😉 DM

    Like

    Reply

    • Mary
      Feb 22, 2014 @ 18:43:04

      Yes, I feel that too. It’s hard not to be equally overwhelmed and underwhelmed by the bombardment of “do you want the farmer to return?” messages (Animal Farm). Thanks for reading and commenting!

      Like

      Reply

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Curiosity Travels

"Replace fear of the unknown with curiosity."

Young Adventuress

The Solo Female Travel Blog

Young Adventuress

The Solo Female Travel Blog

teaching With "Ang-sigh-eh-tea"

The life of a teacher who struggles with anxiety and depression.

Sampa Sympatico

A Yankee Teacher's Experience of Sao Paulo, Brazil

LINDSAY JILL

The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step

Once Upon a Time in México

Living my dream of teaching, traveling, and discovering culture

Teach. Travel. Taste.

A peek into the life of an American teacher in Colombia

2seetheglobe

Adventures in Globetrotting

Nomad Notions

Tales of Expat Living, Teaching, and Tramping in Taiwan and Beyond.

Sojourners' Journal

“Each of us is here for a brief sojourn; for what purpose he knows not, though he sometimes thinks he senses it. But without deeper reflection one knows from daily life that one exists for other people." —Albert Einstein

Middle East by Midwest

Observations and Experiences of Bahrain

Ex(pat) and the City

The life of a twenty-something Canadian living & teaching in Korea.

International Schools Review

ISR Blogs are open to site members and visitors alike. Your Voice Counts.

Teaching - Traveling - Learning

The Life of An International Teacher

LOVE.LIVE.LIFE.ABROAD

THE ADVENTURES OF A NOMADIC TEACHER

pedagogyofthereformed

Teaching in Brooklyn in Spite of Everything

Actively Dying

by Peter Fall Ranger

Practicing Presence

An attempt at mindfulness in life, learning, and love

chanyado

Chanyado. Shade. Respite from the sun. A place under the tree to rest my head, and wiggle my toes out in the sun.

The Educationista

Life. Lessons. Inspiration.

Words Half Heard

writing into meaning.

gadflyonthewallblog

"To sting people and whip them into a fury, all in the service of truth."

Greatfull

A snapshot of my journey to living each day with gratitude and striving to be full of greatness

Imperfect Happiness

Instructions for living a life: Pay attention. Be astonished. Tell about it. ~ Mary Oliver

tspelczech

"I'm too old to live my life in fear of dumb people." - Charlie Skinner, The Newsroom

Perfectly Pleased

I take the little moments of life and write about them. Always with Love.

Cultivate Clarity

creative writing and mindfulness-based coaching, workshops, and retreats

Crawling Out of the Classroom

In everything that my students and I do together, we strive to find ways to use reading and writing to make the world outside of our classroom a better place for all of us to be

ADVENTURES ON THE YOGA MAT

writing into meaning.

AFFECTIVE LIVING

Teaching. Learning. Living.

Mostly True Stories of K. Renae P.

My Adventures in Teaching and Learning

candidkay

Taking the journey, bumps and all

jenny's lark

the beauty of an ordinary life

Nonlinear Compilations

Parenting, teaching, writing, and learning to find beauty in the present

Education Thunk

Thoughts and musings on education as it is, was and will be.

talk from chalk

What I've learned while teaching

Thoughtful teaching

Thoughts on teaching in the modern world.

Hope, Honor, and Happiness

A blog for the book “Kingdom of the Sun” and discussions on finding the Hope, Honor, and Happiness in education, life, and the seemingly impossible.

Secret Teacher

Life inside the primary classroom

A Confederacy of Spinsters

Sex, Dating, and Surviving Your Twenties

Miss Four Eyes

Seeing twice as much absolutely counts as a super power.

SCC ENGLISH

writing into meaning.

%d bloggers like this: