Problems require resolutions

Have you noticed how many of the problems we face in schools never actually get solved?

Think about student behaviour, attainment gaps, workload or mental health… conceiving of these as problems for which we will find ‘solutions’ is daft. We don’t solve these problems in the sense of solving a crossword puzzle, or fix them like we fix a broken-down car. These are problems of a different kind; problems which require endless attention.

And have you noticed how, in our attempts to solve one insoluble problem we merely create a range of others? They pop up like a game of wack-a-mole in a cheap arcade.

Solution-orientation is itself problematic when we can, at best, hope to make something better, not complete. Simplistic problem-solution thinking starts with a destination (a solution) and draws a line backwards to our current mire. The pathway is drawn clearly, but the map does not sufficiently chart the swamps which surround the path, or the creatures that live therein. This is where we will inevitably get stuck; we’ll stray far from the path.

I’ve reached the conclusion that there often aren’t solutions, only resolutions. We can resolve to do something or not to do something; no more. Acting in the knowledge that we cannot overcome, dominate or expel that which troubles us helps to focus our mind on a realistic aim. Our steps may be less surely placed, but we will be more careful about where they land. Moving forward is our goal, putting distance between ourselves and the sucking bog we had found ourselves in.

Paying more attention to where we are now, rather than the Emerald City ahead, seems prudent. The green shimmer will forever be on the horizon, but the yellow-brick road will pass pleasingly beneath our feet. We can glance up occasionally, admiringly, but let’s not fool ourselves that we’ll ever reach the city gates.

Being resolute is the state of determination. Forever failing to solve the problems we face erodes our resolve – unless we change our thinking; resolutions, not solutions. Keep on keeping on. Satisfaction must come from the journey, not in reaching the destination. If we cannot find joy in the impossible, we’re in the wrong job.


One thought on “Problems require resolutions

  1. Rather than a somewhat annoying teenage girl with a dog, bunches and colourful (if I suspect impractical) footwear I’m going to pick is Deep Thought revealing that THE ANSWER is 42. The suggestion is not that he’s picked the ‘wrong’ answer but that he and the mice had failed to agree on what their interpretation of the ultimate question is. The big value of a good humanities education, which is often so difficult to explain is that it’s not about giving you useful answers, it’s about giving you an effective toolkit for framing questions and the understanding that even with an effectively framed question (and the mice really fail to frame the ulitmate question well: they clearly didn’t have good humanties degrees) that there are a huge number of possible interpretations of the answers, and that those will change. My thoughts on class in in the ancient world now are, I know, different to what I thought in 1995, because I’ve had a lot of time to refine my thinking. People engaging seriously in any creative practice know that they ‘best work’ now will not be in 5 years, not only because they’ve had 5 years to practice and increase their understanding of the technicalities but also that they’ve had 5 more years of exposure to ideas and inspiration and in which to experiment. The mark, I believe, of a serious creative practitioner is that their work now isn’t the same as their work 5 years ago.

    When we ask questions like ‘what is the solution to classroom management?’ we’re actually begging the much bigger question of ‘what is my belief regarding an effective learning enviroment?’. As an aside my interpreation of of this may underly my lack of sucess as a teacher but also what I think is my succesful contribution to producing two somewhat idiocyncratic sons. Currently the country is riven by the massively big, but hugely ill framed question of ‘should be leave or remain in the EU’ – which over the past 3 years has proven to be possibly an even more poorly framed question than that posed by the mice because the answers people had were in fact very complex and depended on everything they’d thought, or experienced or been taught in their lives and which the governent tried to bring down to a superficially simple question for which there was AN ANSWER.


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