Thursday, April 04, 2013

1:00 AM

I woke up and figured out why one of my special ed students couldn't log into one of our school websites today.  I had emailed him direct links, his login and password so he could just cut and paste them, I called him and walked him through it with his mother (who is a tech person) helping and they both still could not log in.

At 12:30AM, I figured out why.  I could just say he (and his mother) failed to follow directions.  He (and she) did that. In fact, that is one of his learning issues. But I too failed.

Failure is in the small details. Failure is generally in not paying attention, both as a student and as a teacher in all arenas of life. Failure is in assuming we are both looking at the same thing. Failure is assuming competence in another. Failure is in not clarifying, double checking, asking the right questions, listening and looking. I know where *I* failed my student and his mother today in all those areas. In the middle of the night I realized that one question would have solved the issue, but I assumed something at a critical point.  Any one of three things I could or should have done would have solved the problem, but I assumed something that did not send me down those paths.  And we all ended up at a dead end.

Of course all of those things are things I know from sixty years of being taught and teaching. My academic and spiritual training focused on all of those things. Intellectually I "know" how to ask, clarify, listen and watch.  In the grand scheme of things, and knowing a LOT of people, I think I do all that pretty well (he said humbly). But I also know that in certain situations, like today, I don't do it well. I fail to do what I know to do.

As a human being, none of that is really an "AHA!!" moment. Our existence is marked with failure to do the things we know to do. The "AHA!" is that I thought I knew better in this situation. ONE DETAIL! So yeah, I'm still human. I'm still vulnerable to the same dumb mistakes in specific situations. I'll fix this specific issue tomorrow.  I may even generalize it to other similar situations.  The important thing is, I think, that my focus is on MY failure rather than the shortcomings of my student and his parent to do EXACTLY what I had instructed them to do.  They actually didn't do EXACTLY what I said, but I didn't ask the right questions to discern that because I assumed too many things.

The secondary issue (actually the PRIMARY issue) is "How do I approach this tomorrow morning?" There are two scenarios.  The first is to either blatantly or subtly point out their failure to follow instructions. The end game is they are shamed and I am vindicated. I actually did give clear instructions, they've worked for 98% of my students and parents.  They were clear to me and a LOT of other people.

The second scenario is to be humble. I failed at several critical points to clarify, ask, check, double check and be specific. I failed them. For that, I am accountable and I should apologize.

So, last week I had lunch with one of the founders of a multi-million dollar software company. My oldest son is his executive assistant. We chatted business, being an owner, family and spiritual life. I told him about how I started my construction company with only a few months experience as a laborer/clean-up guy.  On Friday I was a floor sweeper for fifteen journeymen, on Tuesday I was their boss. My default position with them had to be "humility".  I didn't even know how to read a blueprint, much less frame, sheetrock, finish walls etc. etc. But I was still "The Boss" and held the "Boss Card".  That experience formed my "management style", and even my spiritual life for the past 30 years, both as one in authority and one under authority. We very briefly talked about  the problem with when to or how to play the "Boss Card" and the problem with employees/managers who can't figure that out and its effect on "the corporate culture", but didn't really delve deeply into the topic.

I've thought a lot about "management by humility" the last few days. What would that look like? What would be the effect on a "corporate culture"? How could you (is it possible?) to train someone to be humble? Would humility even work in the long run in a corporate environment? Is it possible to "hire to the core value of humility"?  How would an HR department screen for that and end up with quality employees?

But, it is now about 2:30AM and I need some sleep.  More later....

6 comments:

Anam Cara said...

My husband was in the Army Reserves as a commissioned officer for 3 years before coming on active duty. So when that day happened, he began active duty as a captain. The first rule he told me he learned was to always listen to the first sergeant - a non-commissioned officer. He's the one with the experience with the troops - he can give you insights no one else can. The humble "Boss Card" in action.

Thankfully, in the 30+ years he spent in the Army, he was always able to recognize those who had more experience in a particular area and could help him make the big decisions he needed to make.

Sadly, this isn't something that is learned easily as pride at having attained a higher rank often comes along with a promotion in any field. It was only not having the experiences one normally has as a lieutenant that saved my husband from that error. (That and the grace of God!)

elizabeth said...

Yep. It all comes to down to it ~ how can I show my love to this other person instead of vindicating myself, etc... much to think about...

Margaret said...

thank you for sharing your early morning thoughts. Please continue to post any thought onthis topic of humility.

GretchenJoanna said...

I always love to hear the things you think about and like the way you tell the stories that often get you thinking. Thank you!
Hope you are sleeping now....

TechEduk8r said...

My job is similar to yours- 30 years in education, the last 15 are coaching teachers and students in the use of and integration of technology. As a school-wide coach, especially for teachers, I have to think hard on 'leading with humility'- especially, in my case, as a woman who is telling men how and why they should do their jobs differently. I can offer you this one suggestion- Task cards and screen shots. That way there's no assumptions, and everyone is clear on step-by-step directions. Other than that, its a day-by-day, how-can-I-be-of-service task oriented, cross-bearing job- where you bite your lip and say the Jesus prayer more than you ever did before. It's also where you have more joy than ever before.

s-p said...

TechEduK8r, I discovered screenshots about 6 months ago. I use them a LOT now. I'll have to look up Task Cards. I actually do a pretty decent job of breaking things down into small steps. I'm editing a bunch of our school's stuff for clarity right now. But, like all "education", if people don't look at the screen shots and read the directions... Big Sigh. So, yeah, it's a pretty huge podvig for me to bite my tongue and not get snarky, which comes pretty natural to me. Ugh. But yes, it is a reward when you get a student to engage and go beyond his/her boundaries.