336: Following Directions

As a teacher, I give my students directions to follow to complete assignments in class. The directions generally specify such things as hand-written or word-processed, what size font is acceptable, what formatting protocol is to be followed,  the expected length of the paper, and other such things. Along with this page or two of directions, there is a rubric that will be used to score the final product, so students can see what will be evaluated, and how the assignment will be scored.

I do this because there will be directions that they have to follow in order to complete many tasks as adults – this is real-life training. to get a license to drive, there are procedures to follow, documents to bring, and steps to complete. If you do not read the directions, you will make many wasted trips, and perhaps will never attain your goal, the license to drive you were working on getting in the first place.  When you visit the doctor, often you will be prescribed medication – and told when to take it and how much of it to take for however many days. If you do not follow the doctor’s directions, you may not get well, and may even have to go to the hospital.  Sometimes the directions are very important! If you do not mix the infant formula according to the package directions, and sterilize the bottles like you are instructed to do, you can make your baby very sick, and perhaps even kill your beloved child, all because you did not read and follow the instructions.  Sometimes directions matter VERY much.

Now, as to following directions for class assignments. Just because you did your papers one way last year, with another teacher, does not mean that this year, with a different teacher, things will automatically be exactly the same. It usually means that things will NOT be the same! Not reading your assignment directions is a very foolish thing to do.

I advised a co-curricular youth vocational organization for over ten years as a public high school teacher. This organization sponsored state and national competitions each year, and my chapters, in the schools where I taught, prepared carefully each year to participate in those competitions. I would run copies of each event’s rules and instructions and give that copy to the student or group of students who were competing in that event. I warned each group to use those rules as a checklist, and to literally mark off each rule and instruction as they prepared their competitive event display or project, to be absolutely sure that we did not forget or overlook any tiny detail that was specified in the rules.  As a result, my competition teams and students consistently scored very well in the competitions, and brought home many trophies. We actually won some events because other teams got disqualified for not following the rules of the contest, and our teams won because our students DID read the directions.

This was excellent training for my students – and we got used to winning trophies because we were very careful about following the rules. We were NEVER disqualified, because we read the directions!

Now, if I can impress upon my current students that this is the way to do things – we might get a better quality student, and better assignments! Perhaps I need to sponsor competitive events like we used to do for these students, too. This is an idea that might work!

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