Thursday, July 17, 2014

Danger, Men at Work

     Granted that this is a British sign, laden with typical British deadpan humor, but it seems to say more than it means.  As I passed the sign the men standing around were speaking in that wonderful, incomprehensible Cockney accent, there was no dangerous posing, nothing untoward happening, nothing that I needed to skirt to keep myself safe except that I was an alien female, who loved construction work and therefore suspect of invading a work site meant for the opposite sex only.  I've thought back to this sign many times.

     Way back in 7th grade I took an aptitude test.  When the results came back, neatly typed (this was when typing was the only way to get letters on the page) the test results gave scores and then suggested a few occupations in which I might excel.  Spatial relationships was seemingly my one and only truly outstanding work qualification.  The score was, if I recall correctly, 101%.  The options offered me were "Mechanic" and "Dress Designer".  As we continue to struggle with testing and testing and testing of school kids, I think about this test of my skills.  The test accurately captured a strength and then wandered off into fantasy land. (I dress mostly in jeans.)

     Tests test, but do they test for every factor?  Obviously not in my case.  Take mechanic.  In the first place I wasn't a male in a time when being a female mechanic would not have been the slightest option.  In fact being a female in that profession would have been dangerous!  Moreover, the test forgot to get my hand print.  My glove size is that of a ten-year-old, so my little hands would not have done well with most over sized male mechanic's tools.  Over my lifetime I have given mechanical work a whirl.  My old Volkswagen bug gave me the chance to try my hand at changing distributor points and properly gaping spark plugs, but this was almost child's play with this little car.  I did love the work, but as a profession with my little hand size, no way!  

     The thought that I could be a mechanic I kept to myself.  If a woman's place was supposed to be in a home, I was lucky.  I could be a mechanic in my own home.  Year by year I acquired tools.  One of the first was a small Makita  power screwdriver.  I acquired it at a yard sale.  The young woman explained that the screwdriver had been a Christmas gift from her boyfriend.  It almost ended the relationship. She was so disappointed and offended.  "Danger" that screwdriver said to her. 

      Bear claws, titanium hammers, five-in-one paint tools, shovels with hand carved wooden handles.  These make my heart sing.  My bookshelf includes titles like "One Good Turn: The Natural History of the Screw and the Screwdriver" and "Women Who Built Their Own Homes".   That test didn't say that I would admire a good shovel, covet screwdrivers and furniture clamps, but I do.

Well-designed spot to store a shovel.     
      I worry about the extensive testing that we are doing today in our schools, focused so much on academic abilities.  They miss the complexity of human potential.  Across my lifetime spatial relationships surfaced in my photography and the spatial aspect of visually mapping words and ideas.  They surfaced as a preschool teacher in my understanding of how a room's spatial layout affected the quality of the learning that occurred.  My ability to show children the aspects of spatial design affected their capacity to document their ideas on paper or in three-dimensional construction.  

     I have about the best physician in the world.  He makes me laugh, good tonic any day.  When I recently explained to him that I had had tendinitis in my elbow years ago from hammering on a garage roof, he looked at me and said, "Why would you do that, Sweetie!"  I had to laugh.  The "Sweetie" says it all.  I'm just not dangerous enough to do construction or mechanical work, even if the test said so.

      Every child has some intelligence, some skill that will make a difference in their world.  Testing might not so accurately predict what will precisely happen across that child's lifetime.  In fact being responsible, compassionate or honest may make more of a difference than any academic test results.  

     My spatial intelligence blessed me in ways entirely unpredictably.  I admire a well-designed dump truck and admire the striking design on it's side left by mud streaks.  A sign leaning against a truck makes me picture this hole, that is not a hole, and makes me laugh.  Just walking the neighborhood past a construction site I am enriched. 

The Hole That Is Not A Hole! Ha!
     My life has been blessed by spatial awareness.  It didn't guide my path, it trailed along behind me sticking it's nose into my work, my passions and my life.  The results of tests may be dangerous all in themselves.  Had I become a mechanic as the test proposed, I would have short-changed myself and my life's work of teaching children.

     Danger.  Placing too much into testing. Instead, flip that bucket of possibilities and just "Let's Do It."  Teach well and let children thrive in the multiple ways possible across a lifetime.






  1. I have actually read a lot of your blog posts in the last hour. I really enjoy what you are doing here. (And as a writer of fantasy novels, I'm enjoying looking at different aspects of that when you go through them in blog post). And truly, I love world-culture building. Thank's for sharing.

    1. Thank you for your comment. I am currently writing a memoir, but fantasy sounds like an appealing genre. You must be having fun!

      I am always looking for signs that seem to have double meanings, like the "Push Off" at the end of escalators in Britain. They can be great writing prompts.


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