August 23rd, 2006

And Now For Something Completely Different

I was talking to the Media Specialist at work earlier today and the topic of the new teachers came up. Our school got about ten new teachers over the summer, some of whom were hired less than a week before the semester started. (That completely boggles my mind, by the way. I’ve been around a lot of teachers and I know how much work it is to prepare for class. I can’t imagine getting a new teaching job with so little preparation time.)

Many of the English teachers have a class that they take to the Media Center for research projects. They’ll do some projects to get the students familiar with the various resources in the Media Center so they are better prepared for researching for papers in the coming year.

The Media Specialist (who is a fantastic person, by the way) told me she was particularly impressed with one of the new English teachers because of something she said and did during her class’s foray into the Media Center this morning. Things weren’t going as planned and she said, “This isn’t working. I need to find a different way.” And she proceeded to do so, and it had better results.

“This isn’t working. I need to find a different way.” So simple. So brilliantly simple, yet so difficult for so many to grasp. So often we want to do our plan because we planned it and maybe having to change our plan means we made a mistake in our planning, and we don’t ever like to admit that. This new teacher, though, fresh out of college, wasn’t shackled by years of “This is how we do it” or “No point in worrying about it because not everyone’s going to get it anyway.” She tried something, it didn’t work, so she tried something else. I hope she keeps that attitude throughout her whole teaching career. If she does, her students will remember her long after they’ve graduated from her classes.

One of my favorite sayings of all time (even though it’s trendy) says:

The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.

I see this so often with computer users. If a job sent to the printer doesn’t print, the most common response is to send the job again. And again. And again. I’ve had to clear out 20 print jobs of the same document because the printer wouldn’t print it the first time. Usually there is some sort of error message on the printer itself when something like that happens, too. We do what we know, though. “Maybe I didn’t hit the print button right.” “Maybe the print job got lost on its way to the printer.” We know that hitting the print button is what causes things to be printed, so we’ll try that again. We all have things we do like that, I’m just using computer users because it’s what I have the most experience with… and because I’m on the “I know better” side of that particular fence. I could just as easily talk about car-related things, or any mechanical thing, really, as I’m just as bad an offender in those areas. Car won’t start? Try turning the key again. Yeah, that’s me in a nutshell.

I’m a big one for doing things the same way every time, anyway, so this isn’t too big a stretch for me. Routine is comforting, and I like to feel secure. I always put my keys in the same exact place every night, I take the same route to work every day, the cats get fed at both 6:30s, and my DVD collection is alphabetized. It’s what I know, it’s what I like. Unfortunately, that puts my mind in a box when I’m confronted with new puzzles and problems. I find it difficult to come up with new ways to approach a problem, so if my standard plan of attack doesn’t work, I’m stymied. I often will become actually immobile, staring at the ground, tapping my fingers against my thumb, frozen in confusion. It’s usually coupled with a sense of helplessness which can lead to frustration. Suffice to say, if there’s some sort of emergency, I’m probably not your go-to guy, I am sad to admit. That doesn’t fit well with my desire to be helpful.

There’s this book named Who Moved My Cheese? that everybody says is so fantastic and has changed countless lives. I’d had it suggested to me on more than one occasion because of my preference for routine. All those people will be happy to know that I finally read it this summer. There are points in the computer upgrading process where you have to wait for the computer to be ready for more input, and these points are ideal times for doing a crossword or reading bits of books. It was during one of these upgrades that I had finished the crossword and I noticed the book on the teacher’s shelf. It was a quick read as it’s written on, oh, I’d say a fifth grade level. Sure, its very transparent points were good and all that, but the style of writing was head-shakingly simple and, really, I didn’t gain any new information. If the cheese is gone, you go find more cheese. Well, duh. It’s specifically written for businesses and workers, but there are endless testimonials of how people have used it in their daily lives and it revolutionized their thinking and yadda yadda yadda. Not me. Sorry, people who suggested the book to me. I think I was too bugged by its silly setup and the class reunion frame story to get past it.

But “This isn’t working. I need to find a different way.”? That gets right to it, and without making up some sort of world where mice and miniature people-creatures both eat off the same pile of cheese found in a hallway.

I’m notoriously resistant to self-help – it’s almost an immunity – so I wonder if this will help any. Besides, I already know that I need to try new things. Where I get stuck is not knowing a new thing to try.

Is there a book or a teacher saying for that?

5 Comments on “And Now For Something Completely Different”

  1. The Obscure says:

    I do that printer button thing all the time.

    I have also heard that Franklin quote attributed to Freud.

  2. daniel says:

    start small. Feed your cats at 6:45 or better yet close your eyes and rearrange a couple of the shelves in your DVD collection and let it stand that way for a couple of weeks.

  3. Meags says:

    Or – quit your job and move to Texas. Worked for me. ;)

  4. Beth says:

    Move to Canada, eh? Or at least, come and visit your friend who's moving to Canada…

  5. HorizonPurple says:

    I'm afraid, Mr Mup sir, I cannot help, but do let me know what you end up doing, because that is how I do interesting things.

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