Lessons to be learned and peppers to be cut.

It is my belief that we (meaning anyone who assists/supports anyone else) cannot do our job or fulfill our purpose without learning lessons of our own…sometimes they are a casual awareness of enlightenment, and sometimes they come with a cartoon sledge hammer with the words ‘Duh and Eureka’ on it!

Welcome to my sledge hammer moment…

How it began:

As I worked with a participant on her cooking skills, I asked her if she knew how to cut a pepper. She told me no, that she had never done it before. I then said ok, I will show you how to cut a pepper.

Moment of ‘Duh and Eureka’:

I then began cutting the pepper, after a few seconds the participant stated “that’s not how my mom does it”.  I froze…literally stopped in mid motion as my brain processed what she said. I then slid the cutting board over to her and asked if she would show me how her mom does it. She then proceeded to cut the pepper in a completely different way than I had been doing, with no problem, even getting out all those pesky seeds.

My lesson:

I realised that despite all my beliefs about what I was doing was being helpful and educational, I was doing it from a standpoint that my way was the right way, or at least the only way…even if I was not saying that out loud.  I did not take the time to explore what this participant did know (through her own observation skills) and how that information could be related to the task at hand and her purpose at TIFS.

Things like “I can show you how I do it”, “how have you seen it done before”, “how would you like to try it”, or “have you ever seen it done”, are now what I say in order to learn what the participant already knows.

This lesson is consistently reinforced for me…I have been present when parents or other support staff focus on the way they know how to do something instead of finding out if the person they are showing has a different idea about it.  I have also seen such situations develop into power struggles, or have heard a participant express unhappiness that they are not doing it the way a parent/staff prefers…resulting in the participant giving up and feeling unconfident.

By no means is this meant as a criticism for anyone who is routine oriented…we are after all creatures of habit…however we all deserve the right to explore our own way to do things…and see how many ways are there to cut a pepper.

~ Tami Schaafsma

(I would like to recognise that those tasks which are required to be done a certain way for reasons such as health and safety, are not the type of tasks I refer to here)

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