I love to read anything and everything EXCEPT technical manuals. I want to WANT to read them, I consistently TRY to read them when I get a new gadget or tool. But, after a few minutes in, my brain is swimming in words, and I just close them. If there are pictures or diagrams, it helps but, in general, I just don’t read them. Ever.
Recently, I got what is easily one of the most amazing gadgets I’ve owned in quite some time, the Instant Pot. It is a new school twist on an old school pressure cooker, and everyone I know is raving about it on social media. In our life, anything that makes cooking easy, fast, delicious, and healthy is a winner in my book. So the short of it is, I REALLY wanted to use it. I got out the manual for my new instant pot, and I tried to read it. Within minutes, my brain was again swimming in words and on top of that, I had a growing fear that I was going to blow up my kitchen. This thing had so many warnings attached to it. But I was determined.
I went to another resource, on my Facebook page, and messaged friends who assured me that I would not blow up the kitchen and that it was very easy to use. I joined some Facebook groups but they kept mentioning this water test (although no one would say exact exactly how to do it) so I just ended up more worried and nervous that if I didn’t do the water test it would certainly result in my kitchen being demolished.
In the last two days we’ve had a little blessing called “snow days,” and my husband has been home with us. I shared my fear of blowing up the kitchen, my desire to use the Instant Pot, and my resistance to reading the manual. He took the manual, read it for me, and gave me a tutorial. How I love that man.
Today I made the most delicious spaghetti in one pot with no mess, no boiling over, no splatter, no strainer, and no stack of pots to clean! I literally threw the meat, onions, and garlic into the pot, cooked it for three minutes, then dumped uncooked pasta, a jar of spaghetti sauce, and a jar of water in the pot. I pushed the pressure cooker button and 15 minutes later we had hot, delicious spaghetti with pasta cooked perfectly al dente. I couldn’t even believe it.
Reflecting on this experience made me think about how sometimes motivation and a skillset do not come together. Although I am an educated woman who reads extensively, the particular genre of technical reading really gives me trouble. I think so many of our kids, especially bright students, experience this feeling as well. While they seem capable or skilled in many areas, we all have weaknesses. When they come up against challenges or tasks that they don’t have the skill set to complete, it’s easy to walk away. It’s certainly easier to look like you don’t care than to look like you’ve come up against something that you might not be able to traverse. I believe it is our job as educators to help them identify these gaps or weaknesses, mitigate the skills that we can, and give students resources or options so that their weaknesses do not define them. It’s also important to remember that they might really want to accomplish the task but feel inadequate or not have the skills. We cannot make assumptions that lack of ability or strength equals lack of motivation.
I believe it also to be our responsibility to show students that if a skill or task is not something that they can master right now, there are options other than walking away. Surrounding yourself with people who will help you or who have strengths where you have weaknesses is a worthy endeavor. This is a critical piece in building a great team. Every individual has strengths and weaknesses and we build great teams by expanding the skill set of the team through the diversity of the members.
Exploring other resources and options to find answers is critical. This is at the heart of innovation which is a critical skill set in the 21st-century workplace. Resourcefulness is a key trait in great leaders and competent problem-solvers. If we come up against a challenge and give up without accessing as many resources as possible, we often miss opportunities, experiences, and solutions.
So the question here is, how do we teach students how to think this way? How do we teach our children? How do we help our peers?
- Listen more than we talk and make no assumptions. Hearing the words people are saying and taking them in helps us not only identify where we can help but also allows us to hear the “why” behind the obstacle. Only the person heading into the challenge truly knows where there heart lies.
- Model the expectation. Be willing to admit weaknesses, and seek solutions to problems while accessing all resources available. Show students there is more than one way to accomplish a goal or solve a challenge. Ask questions to help them arrive at that conclusion on their own instead of telling.
- Surround ourselves not only with people we enjoy, but people who build us up, and people whose skills compliment our own. Talk with students about how they can do the same in their lives, in group work, or even on the playground. Our greatest allies might not always be our greatest friends. It is nice when those two things come together, but there is also value in teams whose skills simply work together for a greater good.
- Know our limitations. No one can be good at everything but we can all be good at something. I may continue to try to read technical manuals, but because it’s not a major skillset for me, I’m not going to spend a lot of time trying to build that one. I’d rather capitalize on my strengths. Help students identify strengths and use those to mitigate areas where they struggle. A great reader can become a great writer by exposing themselves to various types of writing through their reading.
I am, as always, thankful for the challenges that help me grow and the people who are there to make the learning easier; those who see my hesitation or even resistance as a place to support. I am ever thankful for the blessing of using my own challenges to make a difference in the lives of others.