The Value of Doing Things Badly

For a while I worked with a teacher who had mastered the art of getting students involved. She often talked about the obvious fact that if you do something badly, awkwardly, with incompetence, etc. students will just say - let me do that. Does it really matter if we show students our ability? Definitely when they do not know how to do something we should show them. However, when they are perfectly able to complete a task, and especially when they are accustomed to having things done for them - that is a time to make it look like you do not know how to do something well.

The classic example in my house is when I'm texting someone with my phone. Using one awkward thumb, one letter at a time - my daughter will readily take the phone in frustration saying "watching you text is driving me crazy. Let me do that!" And then I can dictate instead of text.

One recent example happened today at school; a group of students decided to take charge of choosing what we eat for our Wednesday group lunch. Bagels and cream cheese had been the standard go-to for a few years but the student council was growing tired of that, and so I gave them a budget to choose and buy whatever they wanted, as long as they check in with the other students. One energetic student took charge for a few weeks - we had Pizza, Indian food, and then ran out of steam when he saw that no one else was helping or taking any initiative.

He wanted carrots and dip. A few complained, but no one stepped in to either make any other suggestions, or find consensus. I took him aside and said - just get what you want - maybe if the others don't like it they will have more energy to make a decision next time. So, for lunch today we had assorted nuts, baby carrots, and some dip. No substantial complaints - we'll see what happens next week.

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