In the spirit of boundaries

Years ago, when I still officially went to school, the whole school used to go for a week’s ski-camp. For us kids it meant an extra week on the skis and – equally important of course – no sitting in class rooms, listening to teachers that were more or less exciting.

Our class was fortunate in that we had one teacher who was just great. She was – back then – young, fun and made class as interesting as possible given the topics she was teaching (French and German). On the whole she was also dependable, i.e. she followed through with her announcements.

Okay. Sometimes she could show a little explosive anger when we overstepped the line, but it never lasted for long and we clearly knew we had gone too far. One of the times that some of the students clearly had overstepped the line was during one of the weeks in ski-camp.

It was tradition that during the week we got one evening off to go to the village and do whatever we wanted to do – well, within the range of acceptable behaviour of course. Normally, we had to be back by 10 pm though. After all, we were still pretty young around 13 or 14 years old. However, one year, this great teacher of ours convinced her colleagues that we should be allowed to stay out till midnight. That we were responsible kids and should be allowed a wider boundary within which to move.

Needless to say this was received with great enthusiasm by us students. However, we also knew without a shadow of the doubt that we had to be back on the dot and clearly not a second later! And this is where it becomes interesting.

As we all knew what risk this teacher had taken for us in front of her colleagues most of us naturally honoured her generosity by actually flocking in like little male and female Cindarella’s before or on the dot of midnight. – That is, except for 5 students. They were nowhere to be seen.

We knew by then that these 5 missing students were in trouble. And sure enough, when they finally showed up they were told that they had to pack their bags and leave on the first train the next day. What was interesting to observe was that the 5 students that had misbehaved were known to have overly strict parents. They never had the same kind of freedoms that the rest of us had at home and so they did not know how to deal with this unexpected widening of the boundaries.

Whilst the rest of us all knew and fully understood the boundaries and the trust that had been placed in us those kids that had overstepped the boundaries simply had not known the true implication. They only saw a short-term opportunity to overstretch their given freedom without contemplating the consequences and damage caused to themselves and – equally important – to others.

The teachers too were very sorry indeed to have to go to such measures – especially as they knew that these kids were going to be in even deeper trouble at home. On the other hand, they had no other credible alternative at the time.

Needless to mention: the following year, curfew was strictly set at 10 pm. Since nobody was sent home anymore pre-maturely, I assume that also those failing 5 students from the previous year had finally learnt the valuable lesson: just because boundaries are slackened beyond the known it does not automatically follow that they should be ruthlessly overstepped! On a side-note: A little lesson perhaps, to be learned by some Bankers, Politicians, CEOs, Managers, etc. etc. etc.?

Not for the first time I for one thanked my lucky stars for the generous and wise parents I had been borne with that kept me out of major trouble for the most part of school life and gave me wide enough boundaries to be able to grow in. – Well, maybe they were not able to keep me out of all trouble, but that is another story. OM.