Pop Quiz: Simple Elegant Solutions
Sometimes I am amazed at how long it takes for me to figure something out. Complexity is not necessarily a factor except maybe as an inverse one. Complex problems are puzzles to which I will devote a great deal of time, but the little things might take a while. For instance all the little things that come from being left handed.
Normally I just deal and I don’t even notice that when approaching a pair of doors the right one is normally open and the left is locked in place. I just reach for the right door, and don’t really think about the times when I was younger pulling on the left door then having to pull on the right. Or when walking up a busy stairwell I, like everyone else, move to the right even though the handrail is on the wrong side for me. Pens and pencils smear. I never see what is on my coffee cup, and when I am recording grades in a grade book my hand covers the names of the students and so I am constantly lifting my hand.
For 15 years I have lifted my hand to find a name and never once did it occur to me to do anything about it.
The catalyst for even noticing this issue was seeing a half sized binder at the office supply store. Look at how cute that is I thought, it would fit so much nicer in my bag then the full sized binder I use. I thought through the pros and cons of using this little binder, because that is how I roll. I’d have to reset my hole punch, but that is easy enough. I have to resize the gradebook paper I use, but since the canned format that comes with the program my school uses is made with 20 year olds in mind with their uncanny ability to read 7 pt font I’d just have to alter the document I use to fit 2 sheets on 1 paper. – Again, not a problem – So I got the little binder, and when I was fiddling and fussing with my document the question “Why am I doing this this way?” hit me. It was in that moment that I saw how inconvenient it was that my hand covered the names of the students and if I just reversed the way I was making the paper I could read the names and record a grade.
15 years – I think that currently is my own personal record for the length of time it took to recognize that something was a problem and the solution was an easy fix.
Teaching is all about problem solving. Reflective practice is what some people call it. Doing what we do as teachers and then pausing a moment to think, is this the best way to do this? If not what can I do to make it better?
So my question to you today is this: What was a simple and elegant solution to a problem that you had while teaching?
The Pop Quiz is a question posed to you, the Scholars of Doubt. Look for it on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays in the afternoon (ET).