You have your way. I have my way. As for the right way, the correct way, and the only way, it does not exist.
— Friedrich Nietzsche
I am a perfectionist. Add to this trait the fact I like things to be done a certain way, then I imagine (actually, I know) I am hard to work with in a team situation. I am also quite anal at home when it comes to little tasks, like how to stack and wash dishes; my husband, on the other hand, is rather laissez-faire about these things. Chalk and cheese — it makes life interesting.
If I look back at my school years, it is obvious I have always been like this. I hated group assignments. If given the opportunity, I would always elect to work on my own. This way, any mistakes were my own fault, my grade wouldn’t potentially be dragged down if someone else was slack, and nobody could ‘ride’ off my grade. And — I got to do things my way.
Hand-in-hand with this is the fact I don’t particularly care for being told how to do things. Especially by those close to me … like my mother. She is very similar to me in that she thinks things should be done a certain way. The problem is, our ‘ways’ are quite different. I tend to dig my heels in, and she often ends by telling me (and anyone else who is around) that I ‘only like doing things my way’. Which is true. But so does she. A happy compromise is yet to be met and probably never will be. We are too similar.
Over the years, experience has taught (forced) me to chill out a little with regards to being perfect and with ‘my ways’.
Team-teaching is huge in most primary schools at the moment. You can not escape it unless you work in a single teacher school. I will not go in to all of the issues with the way this concept is interpreted and performed; I’ll save that for another post. But I will say, while I have been part of some extremely dysfunctional teams at times, I have also been part of some amazing teams. The former has been a monumental struggle, resulting in me just doing my own thing, out of pure frustration, while pretending to ‘toe the team line’. The latter has been a true learning experience; pedagogy changes constantly and working with someone who excels at a particular teaching strategy is an opportunity that should not be missed. Functional teams also significantly reduce a teacher’s workload, which is a good thing as long as everyone receives an equal reduction and the students are still the ones to gain the most.
Dragon Boating has also played its part in reducing my need to be perfect and increasing my ability to feel like I am a functioning part of a team. As for right, wrong and only ways, while there are slight differences in style, if just one person in the boat does things ‘their own way’ then we aren’t moving anywhere fast. The same thing applies to all ‘team’ situations.
The other thing that struck me when I read Nietzsche’s quote was mathematics. At school we were only ever taught ONE way of solving algorithms and other mathematical problems. If we dared solve the problem a different way we were marked wrong, even if our end answer was correct. I coped with this quite well, the process was a good fit for me. Many years later, I undertook a 5-day professional learning course on mental computation. It was here that I learnt about multiple ways to solve different problems. I can not adequately describe how much I struggled with this at first but I loved it, so I persevered. The result was that my students who had previously struggled with the rigid ‘you have to do it this way’ method, ended up ‘getting it’ and achieving much improved results in Maths. One girl (who was known for mucking up during Maths in order to be sent out) even requested, on a regular basis, to stay in at lunch to continue to practise her Maths work.
So, while I still like certain things to be done in certain ways, these days I am much more open and flexible to new ways.
Sometimes it’s a struggle to ‘let go’, to ask for help or to take advice and constructive criticism on board . Not everything is necessarily going to work for me, or be useful, but being open to it is important.
I believe ‘the correct way’ does exist, but that it is fluid, flexible and relative to time and situation.
Most importantly, the ‘right way’ is the way that suits you.