I went to a place called House of Air, a big warehouse space filled with trampolines. In this ‘house’ walls and floors bounce. At any moment, you can find as many as fifty kids bouncing around, screaming, getting knocked out of their comfort zones. I also saw at least fifty new kids, watching, grinning, but not yet ready to go. Face to face with something new, the sidelined fifty thought it better to wait.
Most everyone found a path (internal and then external) onto the trampoline. Once on, they kept going, bouncing higher, adding in flips, and getting the tightness knocked out one bounce at a time. Last of the hold-outs was Ava, a little blond girl who wore a coat even on hot days and sat out even the safest games. Her best friend, Lulu, took her by the hand. They walked onto the trampoline floor, and started with little bounces, then bigger ones. I got to hear Ava scream after only two minutes – and that was the first sound I had ever heard her make.
What magic comes through bouncing! I got a free ride through my own psyche just by jumping up at down. What did I learn? That I can jump (bounce) high if the surface below me has the right combination of flexibility and tautness. If the trampoline is slack, I can’t make it work. Too taut and I can hurt myself. Getting it just right offers a wonderful, liberating sensation that works through my whole body.
Fresh from this experience, I came into work on Monday and found a parent waiting for me. She wanted to talk to me about the school’s standards in language arts. She had read some article about standards in another country – she said these standards were higher than ours – and wanted to engage me in a discussion about raising our school’s standards so that every child would be challenged and her little girl would not need to encounter boredom.
Tightness in her anxious complaint brought me an insight she led me to: If I can bring the right combination of flex and tension to what we want to build together, I can shape a starting place for untold joy and connections with sweet truths that we never knew existed. Setting things up so that we can ‘bounce’ might allow us to defy earthbound algorithm and bring fun into our short time together each day.
If pure potential exists, it must be possible to connect with it. Which steps – intentional and accidental – might allow us to go there, time and again, with a degree of predictability about the method if not the destination. Required elements include something to bounce off of and a way to call out the tangible and intangible things that bouncers discover.
Just knowing that a bounce can lead to celebration gives me a bit of a push to go forward and work through rough patches. How can I help my school align energies, get the tension just right, and make great things happen? In the years ahead, the goals that now appear out of reach will become the new zero and, with the right bounce, who can say how far beyond that we might go?