Theories of Boxes and Systems

Someone once told me that we should look at how boxes fit into one another in order to help others.

Photo of Andre Douglas
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You've probably heard the line at least once in your life. Please secure your own airbag before assisting someone else with theirs.  How could you possibly help someone else if you can't help yourself. This line has been said over and over again to me in the recent years as I have climbed the ladder in employment. At 22, I have been a supervisor at my local YMCA, helped a little in starting off a non-profit, and have worked for multiple industries at various positions. In each venture I took, I first had to focus on myself and excelling what my main tasks were before I was able to help my teammates. More and more, I am finding that this same idea must be in place when it comes to helping the next generation.

With more and more programs trying to help find a solution in education, there has been a heavy reliance in recruiting and using the near-peer model with various initiatives. Such examples include Teach for America, City Year, and College Advising Corps. That isn't too say that these programs are not doing phenomenal work, but are they being truly efficient with their methods? I would like to state that I am not going to focus on their downfalls or claim that these programs do more harm then help, especially when these programs are filling in gaps that would be otherwise empty for a sufficient time period. Rather, I am wondering if there are better methods in how these programs conduct their training programs and day to day operations.

I would ask that you think of a child as an item you want to ship. Now this box can fit into another box - typically a mentor/family member/teacher/coach/etc. Now that box can fit into a supervisor/manager/principal box. That box fits into another box and so on and so forth. Each box holds and protects another box. We need to focus on reinforcing each box so that they can support the weight of the other boxes they hold. Whether it be through making sure they are well made with higher quality materials, constantly reinforced through ongoing inspections and modifications, and treated with care as each one is handled by another box, we must work on bettering the people we have to be the most efficient forms they can be to not only better help themselves but others as well.

So I ask that we consider this. As each child is very fragile, do we trust the boxes that we are placing this child in/with? Should we work on bettering them through new innovative methods? What can we do to be more efficient? 

[Optional] Synthesize a little! In one sentence, describe what you learned from your empathy exercises or analogous research. (Ex: Good advisors make a difference.)

Making sure that each level of a system is well maintained and equipped is the best way we can move forward in this process of helping our youth accomplish their future dreams and aspirations.


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Photo of Chris Good

Andre, what a great analogy.  
It would be fun to turn it upside down as well. As young people mature into newly formed "big-people humans" they are going to need to break out of those boxes we protected them in for so long.  At some point they will want to take control of their own lives, shed those protections we have so lovingly given them, and start choosing their own directions - and their own new boxes.

I can imagine so many ways that that might happen, some who want to tear the boxes away as fast as possible, others who just peek out and take their time.

I wonder how we might help make that process of breaking out of those boxes a positive one, as much as we might also try the act of providing them?

Photo of shibika chaudhary

Your mention of breaking the box is very exciting Chris from my context this too in itself a process of finding our own identity..I try to help children who come from financially and socially challenging backgrounds and both Andre and your analogies are so relevant.They need so much motivation from the peer and community around but at the same time at right time they need to realize that is the time to break away and fly solo otherwise they will become dependent person..Thanks for sharing your thoughts. 

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