Craig Reynolds, a researcher in the study of complexity, created a computer program with a collection of autonomous birdlike agents he called boids. Each boid was programmed with three simple rules:
- Maintain a minimum distance from other objects in the environment, including other boids.
- Match the velocity of other boids in your vicinity.
- Move towards the center of the mass of other boids in your vicinity.
There was no designated leader nor were there rules to form a flock. The boids scattered around the computer screen to start with, but soon formed flocks. They flew around obstacles or divided as a flock and then rejoined one another beyond the obstacle.
Can this research enlighten us as an organization, district, or school, about what it means to live in genuine community with one another?
If we paid close attention to our many relationships with one another, if we strove to contribute and we moved in accordance with a shared purpose perhaps the result would be a complex and beautiful communion!
An over-arching shared purpose, the accomplishment of which is every individual’s main responsibility, is a very different concept than the idea of each person doing his or her job, and fulfilling a role rather than living a vocation. If I attend to a designated role as those in the job descriptions with which we are familiar, then there are also things which are NOT my job. This means there are cracks for things to fall through.
If two teenagers are spraying each other at the fountain and I’m a grade-two teacher I can walk by because they aren’t my students. As a grade nine science teacher I won’t stop to help a crying kindergarten child because I don’t know how to handle that…and anyway it’s not my job. As a student I’ll walk by the paper on the floor. Isn’t it the custodian’s job to pick it up? What about when the custodian is away and a student vomits in the hallway…whose job is it to clean that up?
When each and every individual is responsible to make the school a place where people care and take care of one another…when it’s everyone’s first responsibility to make every other member of the school community feel a sense of belonging, then there are no cracks. We have it covered, so to speak. Whoever is able to do the thing that needs doing, does it. In fact, he understands that it is his job to do it.
Note: The story of the boids comes from Mitchell Waldrop’s book: Complexity: The Emerging Science at the Edge of Order and Chaos