I’m a very visual person, so when I bought a new squirrel feeder last weekend I looked at the box and tried to assemble it just the way it showed on the package. No luck. Tried again. Ugh!!!! Handed it over to Gary. He looked at it (not the package) and figured it out. Handed it back to me. I looked at it and then at the package and realized that the illustration on the package didn’t make any sense. Not sure what they did. It almost looked like it was reversed.
Despite that experience, I am still going to follow the directions on the next product, project, etc. that I encounter. I’m just that kind of person. My son seldom even opens the directions for anything. Gary usually makes a decision based on what the task is and how familiar he is with the basic idea of it. I think most people are probably like him.
In my classroom I expect my students to follow my directions for any and all assignments because they lack the experience to just jump in and do whatever they think will work. It is a constant, daily struggle to get some of them to do so. I’m sure they will grow up to be like my son, and throw out the instruction booklet that comes with their newest electronic gadget! But unlike my son, some of them do not have the knowledge or the logic to manage without the instructions.
Yesterday I made one of my students re-do a paper, twice. I did so because I suspected that he knew the answers, but just wasn’t paying attention to the instructions and therefore got all of the answers wrong. So I called him up to my desk and reviewed the paper. The second attempt wasn’t any better. I explained once again and made him answer four questions verbally. On his third attempt he only missed two answers out of fifteen. Did his knowledge base suddenly change? No. He finally did what I asked him to do in the first place and it all made sense.
Another example: we decorated paper sacks yesterday so we can use them for candy at our party tomorrow. The students had already assembled a Santa to put on the bag. The only thing they had to do was glue it on so that the opening of the bag was behind Santa’s hat. I demonstrated that concept two times. Six of my students glued Santa on upside-down! I know that two of them were whispering to each other during instructions. Another one was playing with his shoes. I don’t know what the problem was with the other three, but one of them went through three bags before getting it correct. And your first assumption is wrong. My three students with the lowest academic scores did theirs correctly the first time.
So…I guess my point today is that there are two kinds of people in this world: those who follow instructions, and those who don’t. I’ve generally had more success with the instructions. Although I know that sometimes you have to be a little creative and do things your own way. Just be careful!