Slice of Life: Simple Isn’t Always


Even when I have all the time in the world, the unexpected seems to happen, and I get behind. What I thought would be easy, all of a sudden isn’t and what I thought I’d get done in 15 minutes doesn’t.

Saturday I had a simple plan: to go to school and clean my carpet. My room partner assured me the process was a snap.

At 1:00, I find the machine propped up with cleaning fluid beside it.  A step closer and I realize I have no clue as to how to run this thing.

After a bit of I can’t do this, I calm down and remember Google. YouTube videos are inaccessible due to district limitations. The written word is my only hope. Putting”users manual” in the search hits the jackpot: words and diagrams.

I read the manual aloud while turning and talking to the machine. The process clarified the correct vessel for the hot water. Hmmm. That’s in the office. No problem. I grab the container, phone in pocket, out the door.

Slam.

No keys.

The keys to the office and my car are inside my locked room. Slight panic.

A longer than necessary story told shorter:  In 45-minutes a colleague rescues me.

Five minutes after that, I’ve cleaned the carpet. Total time spent doing a five-minute job, two hours.

Stupid. Stupid. Human.

I knew the importance of keeping the keys with me. But I made a mistake. If you were to evaluate me on my performance, I would have scored poorly.

Why’d I mess up? I was distracted by the time and processing it took to understand something unfamiliar. It wasn’t complicated high-level thinking. It was, in fact, simple; making the work even more irritating. Once I knew what to do, I rushed to make up for my inefficiencies and slam. Big waste of time.

My mistake made me think of students. When I sit down to talk with one about reading or writing what do I notice. Are they working on something that’s unfamiliar or frustrating? Do they want to give up?  Will they make a silly mistake?  Will they rush to get it done like everyone else seems to be?

It made me think of my daily teaching plans. Every day I set forth an agenda, a plan of action for students. And most days, something happens that throws us a curve. If I push and hurry to get it done per the schedule, it ends with someone being frustrated or defeated. Usually me.

This moment of personal stupidity made me think about mistakes and what they say about people. Unknown and untried tasks are difficult at first, maybe even after the first time. What seems simple, isn’t always. Plans adjust, and mistakes inform.

Mistakes and miscalculations happen more frequently than I want to believe. What I do with the mistakes is the exciting part.

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My wet and clean carpet. Ready for mistakes.

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Thank you Two Writing Teachers: Anna, Beth, Betsy, Dana, Deb, Kathleen, Stacey and Tara for your blog and the opportunity to share our stories. Read more slices here.