I am 49 years old and last week I did something that I have never done. I have never even attempted this or anything like it. In fact, I was looked at questioningly when I said I was going to do it. I had my concerns that I would be capable as well. There was doubt and worry in the men's faces when I left with the equipment necessary to do the job. These men were kind men but the Shelley they know had never exhibited any tendency or skill toward what I told them I was going to do. One of the men apologized that he couldn’t go along and help me or do the job himself. It was pure kindness, encouragement, and generosity albeit with skepticism in my skills or ability.
When I arrived a few hours later to return the tools I borrowed and showed them the video of the finished product, I was on cloud 9! They were elated for me as well. One of them gave me a hug and the other high fived me. They were genuinely happy for me and impressed that I was able to do the job. I was quite proud of myself as well. When I posted about it on my Facebook page, I had over 150 people Like and/or comment on the post. That told me that many other people were also impressed. To do something that a group of people (including myself) didn’t think was in my wheelhouse was an eye opening experience.
My daughter is at college an hour from where we live. She called us on Monday to say she thought the battery in her car was dead. We gave her some advice, told her to have someone try to jump the battery, and to get back to us. She told us on Tuesday that nothing worked. As I was leaving a meeting on Wednesday morning, I saw I had missed calls and texts from her. She needed her car and as a college person, she didn’t have the extra money to spend for a service call. She needed to use her car to get to work and to some of her classes. My husband was at work and I just happened to have a small window of time that I could get to her, hopefully change the battery, and get back before my next meeting.
Since I had been coming from a meeting and would be going to another meeting I was dressed in nice clothes, wearing dress shoes, with my hair fixed, and my jewelry on. I was not dressed to do any mechanics. I walked into the auto parts store and told them I needed a battery and some instructions on how to change one. The gentleman asked me the make and model of the car and while he was looking up the type of battery I would need said to me, “Do you mechanic?” He sort of stumbled over the words. I believe he wasn’t trying to insult me but was really confused by my appearance, the fact he knew me, and that I as I mentioned, I had never attempted anything mechanical before this. He retrieved the battery, pulled up a YouTube video, watched it with me, and then let me borrow a socket wrench set. He made sure I had the number to the store with instructions to call if I had any problems.
The hour drive to my daughter I prayed for the ability to be able to accomplish this task. He gave me the knowledge and the strength. About 40 minutes after I arrived near my daughter’s car, I had changed the battery! As I am writing this I get the same feeling of pride and thankfulness to God that I had the second she started the car. We celebrated by driving around for a bit. I saw her again yesterday and when she started her car I smiled with pride and thankfulness again.
Along with God’s help I had presumed I would be able to get the job done. The men at the hardware store were not so confident in my ability but encouraged me, helped me, and had hope for me that I would be able to change the battery. All that positivity, I believe, helped. I truly don’t believe I would be writing this today if all that positivity had not happened. Even though I had never done anything remotely like this, competence was presumed. Even though this task seemed to be way outside my skill set, competence was presumed and encouraged. When I completed the task competence had been presumed, encouraged, and was now being celebrated. This is how education should be. For every single student. This is how education should be, competence is presumed. Then that presumption needs to be encouraged, supported, and celebrated when success happens.
Sadly, some students go through their whole education career with competence never being presumed. We must do better as educators. Even when we aren’t 100% sure a skill is going to be learned, we need to allow the student to attempt it. Even if it takes more than one attempt at learning the new skill, we need to encourage and support the student. When the student makes any progress toward learning the new skill, we need to celebrate. I want every student in every school around the world to feel the sense of pride and accomplishment that I felt when the car started.