It would be easy to fall into the blame game and tear down my dad. Okay, he was human. But he also had some good advice, in those rare moments I actually asked for help or bothered to listen to him. He also knew a lot about cars.
While in college I was complaining about some core requirement I had to take. His comment was that in every class, “You can always learn something.” We might have been wandering campus on parents weekend. Our favorite activity was to skip every scheduled activity and walk through the parking lots and look at the cars that the parents drove. Attending a private school attended by many affluent students made for interesting cars to drool over. We would get to the football game about half-time and decide we were having too good of a time to attend.
“You can always learn something.” You might learn some math theory. You might learn never to show a movie on a rainy afternoon. You might learn you really do hate history, but you can always learn something. I grumbled and felt misunderstood, I am sure, but the core idea, “You can always learn something,” has gotten me through a lot of really bad meetings and workshops.
I don’t want to say that I have lowered my expectations, but with teaching workshops if you can walk away with one good idea that you can use, it was worth attending the meeting. Anything after that is a bonus. The meeting where you count the times the speaker says, “Umm,” will make you more aware, maybe even paranoid, when you walk back in your classroom. My Calculus II professor who got so excited about math that he jumped on furniture while teaching still reminds me to enjoy what you do. He would get so excited solving integrals that he would jump on a slant-topped desk-top lectern that no one used and was thrown in the corner. This made his neck the same height as the loop in the cord attached to the screen so if he tipped we all thought he would hang himself. He certainly kept my attention.
I have learned not to tell people I won’t read the PowerPoint to them, if I plan on doing that. I have learned that it is okay to have a lab be a task completion or a contest and that not everything needs to have a formal write up. I have felt my students’ pain when trying to follow lab directions for the first time and getting totally lost and frustrated. It may be the fiftieth time today I have been asked that question, but it is the first time this student asked and she deserves a response without frustration and attitude. And I obviously need to rewrite the directions!
This is especially pertinent this summer. As I watch my Facebook friends post from Paris, Spain, Glacier National Park, and Iceland just to name a few spots, when asked about my summer plans I say that I am staying in Florida and that I am attending too many workshops. I need remember, “You can always learn something.”
Maybe I will learn to save money for a vacation next summer!