Sometimes the weather report is humorously wrong, like the predicted 2 inches of rain turning into 10 inches over 2 days which resulted in flooding. This would be less surprising if I did not live at the top of a hill. My basement did not retain all 10 inches, but there were 4.5 inches waiting for me when I got home from school on Friday. On top of all of that, my secondary sump pump had rusted since I needed it two years ago, so it was more a spouting fountain and less a water removal device.
So up to this point, the rant has not had a very teacher like tone. Having to clean up my basement provided me a lot of reflection time. I found clarity in the chaos. My first realization is that frustration can quickly blind people to any possible solutions. There was a half hour where I did not accomplish anything productive. I paced in slow motion as I trudged through the water.
I had to remind myself to stop and think. What will improve the situation? The next steps required problem solving and creativity. I urgently needed a part for the sump pump and could not waste frivolous trips to the hardware store. Solution: take a picture of the pump and a second zoomed in of the rusted piece. I could have measured the diameter, but the tape measure was M.I.A. so I traced the piece on paper. I was pleased with my problem solving and convinced that it would be successful.
I was displeased with the customer service at the hardware store. All 3 employees I interacted with acted like it was a hassle to deal with the customers. Judging by the stress and similar requests, we were all there for flood related events, so obviously all of the customers would have preferred if our presence was not required. I am just glad the employees are not teachers. They deal with adults, not the fragile hearts and minds of children.
I wish my students came to me with a picture of what did not work and the measurement of the easy fix. Not knowing the exact name of the broken bit is irrelevant, since I am a professional, I can figure that out. But teaching and learning is not about a single, off the shelf solution. I have to know my students to be able to figure out what the picture would show and to be able to guess possible fixes. I have the patience to try explaining a lesson a different way or answer the string of questions until the student understands.
To the employee whose reaction to my request for help was mumbling “this ought to be fun” – I forgive your ignorance. I hope someday you can find as much professional satisfaction as I have instead of just sharing your misery with everyone. When I mention fun, I mean it. My students make me smile and laugh.
There are some lessons from my Lowe’s outing and the time I spent reflecting in my basement: respect everyone and do not judge. Respect those who are willing to ask for help. It is hard to admit you can not do something on your own. People do not ask for help when life is easy. Be cautious with sarcasm, since people who feel helpless also feel hopeless. There spirits are already down and do not need the added pressure of being part of a joke.
Do not judge a book by it’s cover, or a customer by their college sweatshirt, or a student by their choice of outfit and accessories. I know the employees at Lowe’s judged me as too young to matter, but they made the wrong assumptions. Their assumptions destroyed the respect I had for them in their field. I opted to wander aimlessly down a few aisles instead of asking someone else for help. I never want my students to wander, unless it is because they are fascinated and in awe of their surroundings.