This is our third year as co-managers of a DI team. We really thought by now we’d have it all figured out and “get it right” this year. Yet here we are, having already had FIFTEEN team meetings, and the team hasn’t yet completed what they originally planned to finish in October. Lesson: Starting earlier than last year doesn’t necessarily mean more progress, and only takes up more of our beautiful fall weekends? At least we’ve had fun seeing the kids each week, and got in several skills workshops and IC practices…
Granted, we have 2 new team members who hadn’t done DI before, and they joined at different times, so there were some unexpected but stimulating delays in telling them each all about DI and how much fun they will have this year. And, we’ve had kids miss meetings due to a rash of colds, holiday travel, visiting relatives, key birthday parties, and the start of the ski season (which, in Colorado, is like the start of hunting season in Iowa). This is where I try to justify the apparent lack of progress for the past 2 months. It somehow still feels flat.
In October the team asked us to take them to the library to do some research on two topics. So, we organized extra parents and even an older brother to come along and help keep the middle-schoolers from running amok in the library. After 4 hours of research (and trying to run amok), they checked out seven books on their topics. We were so proud!
They did a very good job of tackling their first topic, probably since one of the team members has a personal interest in it and her passion spilled over to the rest of the team. The second topic, however, has gone essentially nowhere.
With a VERY heavy sigh, I report that I just returned the 4 books related to topic #2 (renewed once, plus paid late fees), after week after week after week of the kids saying, “we still need them” and then just randomly flipping through them and reading the chapter headings. They CLAIM they read them inside and out and there’s nothing useful in them. We spied on them and read the books ourselves, and found TONS of useful information of the kind they are seeking… so we know they simply haven’t read them. Ugh. We have not only led the horses to water, but to THE WATERING HOLE OF THEIR CHOICE, and they still won’t drink even though they say they are thirsty.
On the horse theme, the knowledge they have at this point to apply to their challenge is similar to having checked out 4 books on horses and now claiming to understand them by knowing that horses are large herbivores that come in different colors. Nothing about the differences between Clydesdales and Arabians and Shetland Ponies. Nothing about how horses defend their herd, a baby horse standing up within hours of birth, communications, pecking order, winter survival skills, sleep standing up – nothing insightful beyond the bare facts.
I definitely feel the universe sending me signs that we just need to let go and let the kids move on in their project, hoping they figure out at some point how little useful information they have on this topic and they need to fix that… OR that they have actually internalized more than they can express right now, and it will all come pouring out later in the project. We have tried to provide the structure within which they have the time, space and resources to learn about this topic, and now that it doesn’t seem to be working (from our perspective, that is), it’s time to just trust that these kids can take care of themselves in DI and we need to let them do just that.
How do other team managers help their teams find their own passions about a key requirement in a challenge, without “interfering”? Please share your experiences with this type of frustration!