Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

Doing It for Myself: Comment

Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

Doing It for Myself: Comment

Article excerpt

It's Monday morning. My boss is out on a "learning walk" and could be headed my way. But I'm not too worried because I'm ready to project my starter on to the board.

Suddenly a voice pipes up from the back of the room: "Miss, the projector isn't working." I wiggle the cable but to no effect - the screen remains obdurately blue. I try pressing F8. Nothing. I play Flight of the Bumblebee along all the function keys but my PowerPoint refuses to appear. I imagine what my husband would do, but since playing solitaire isn't an option, I'm left with an ugly choice: do I ask my 12-year-old audience for help or phone IT support? The notion that I could fix it myself never crosses my mind.

It is ironic that I encourage my students to be self-reliant because I rarely model this skill myself. This probably explains why they are reluctant to work outside their comfort zone. Whenever they are given a challenging task, they shove up their hands to seek help. In school we pay homage to persistence - assemblies are awash with tear-jerking video clips of people with prosthetic limbs staggering across finishing lines - but in reality most of us limp away at the first sign of trouble.

I thought about this the other night as I tried to use my son's PlayStation. I've managed to get to this ripe old age without ever switching one on, but it was Friday night, I was home alone and desperate to watch the last episode of Breaking Bad. To do this I needed to log on to Netflix, which, since I'd left my laptop at school, could only be accessed via my son's console. …

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