No depth of cunning unplumbed in our quest.

“And you feel that you have exerted your very best efforts in this matter, do you? That you have exercised all of your considerable ingenuity? That you have left no depth of cunning unplumbed in your quest…?”                     – A. Dumbledore, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Chapter 20.

I read a newstory once about a doctor. This doctor’s education was paid for by the government, and in return for an education, the doctor would serve for some years. Never meant to be in the thick of fighting, this doctor had two patients in a field hospital supported by just three staff. They were taking sniper fire from a nearby structure. Sworn to heal and help, watching two people dying and supported by 19-year olds, the doctor made a call. Two of the soldiers were ordered to ‘take care of the sniper’ while the third was sent for needed supplies.  The doctor stayed with both patients, keeping pressure on a neck wound.

Despite some leadership training, this is a story about a doctor. Doctors train over years to be healers. They train in teaching hospitals, and the lives being lived, and being died, were well outside normal training. Inaction would cost at least two lives, and maybe as many as six. War is fluid and chaos, and clearly, the perimeter teams were not able, for whatever reason, to cope with a sniper right then.

We of course, are in the practice of education. Despite some instruction training, ours is a story about mathematicians and historians and electricians. Whether professor or staff, your training probably was never designed to help you cope with a student crying, with a student losing her vision, with a student overwhelmed by life. Our inaction costs, if not lives, then opportunities. Education is fluid and chaos, and clearly, we find ourselves often wondering why our fellow employees are not coping with the problem that finds itself before us at any moment.

Like a doctor healing in a warzone, we educate open-admission students.

About a year ago, I had a realization. I realized I had the power to pick up a phone and call anyone. Now, unlike our doctor, I cannot expect instant obedience. All the same, I can make a call to anyone at all. It may not be my ‘job’ to call them, and it may not be their ‘job’ to answer. But I can make the call. The worst that happens is they might ignore me or say, ‘No’.

Calling isn’t always the answer; but then, you and I work at Victoria College. We have a near limitless list of powers at our disposal. It doesn’t matter sometimes even which power we choose to use. What matters is acting with leadership. Acting in a way that lets our team, our students, know we are professionally betting on their success. It isn’t even always us who acts; sometimes, we must ask a colleague to step in and take care of a sniper for us. We’ve all been there; a student is in crisis and we need expertise beyond our own.

You and I shan’t always get it right, of course. No one does. In fact, I shan’t tell you here the ending of the doctor’s story any more than I tell you the ending of our stories.  What matters is we all face opportunities to be leaders. We try each day to motivate our students to grow, and when that doesn’t work we try again. We leave no depth of our cunning unplumbed.

Do you need some help? Do you have an idea to share? I’m eager to listen at extension 2468.



Matt Wiley is a tenured, associate professor of mathematics with awards in both mathematics education and honour student engagement. He earned an assortment of degrees in computer science, business, and pure mathematics from the University of California and Texas A&M systems. He is the director of quality enhancement at Victoria College, assisting in the development and implementation of a comprehensive assessment program to enhance institutional performance outcomes. A programmer, a published author, a mathematician, and a transformational leader, Matt has always melded his passion for writing with his joy of logical problem solving and data science. From the boardroom to the classroom, he enjoys finding dynamic ways to partner with interdisciplinary and diverse teams to make complex ideas and projects understandable and solvable.

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