Monday, October 24, 2011

The Blame Game

Yesterday I checked in to the Hilton in Rye Brook, New York for the New York State Reading Association’s annual conference.  When I arrived, I checked in at the front desk and then proceeded to lug a duffle filled with clothes, a suitcase of AV equipment, and a couple of errant bags through the elevator and maze of hallways to finally arrive at my room.  Ready to lighten my load, I eagerly took out my key card and stuck it in the door. 

The yellow light in the middle lit up. 

Desperate for a green light that signaled entrée into my room, I took the card out, and put it in again. 

Again, a yellow light. So I tried a third time. 

While famous for my technological ineptitude, I figured after three failed tries, the problem wasn’t me.  So I loaded up all my stuff and headed back down the hall to find a phone to call the front desk. 

A short while later, a man in official looking hotel attire showed up to let me into my room.  We exchanged niceties and viola, I was in!  Let the conference begin!

After trolling the exhibit hall and greeting colleagues whom I haven’t seen in a long while, I returned once again to my room to freshen up for dinner.  When I arrived, I put my key in the door and guess what?

Yellow light. 

Fortunately this time my roommate was there to let me in.  She had two keys that seemed to work so I took one and once again, my key issue seemed to be resolved. 

I left the room, checked to make sure that the key would let me back in and joined friends and colleagues for a lovely dinner with the folks from Scholastic.  When I returned at nearly 11:00 PM, I put my key in the door and need I even say?

Yellow light. 

I trekked down the hall once again to the community phone and called the front desk and this time they sent security.  When the hotel representative arrived, he took my key and looked at it, then he looked at me, and then he tried sticking it in the door.  Yellow light.

At that point, he turned to me and said, “When you left the room, did you slam the door?”

I couldn’t believe it.  Was he insinuating that it was my fault the door didn’t work?  I explained that this was the third time today that this had happened and that generally I don’t slam doors when I leave rooms. 

Then he inserted his specially programmed, ultra powerful, get into any room key card and unlocked my door.   He jiggled the lock on the other side and said, “See, this wasn’t all the way over, that’s why you couldn’t unlock the door.”

As I got to thinking about this incident, it made me think a lot about teaching.  My son told me last week that he asked a teacher a question and was told, “You should have been paying attention.” In the same way that the security man made me feel responsible for the problem, my son’s teacher made him feel the same way.  When children have questions, it could be because they weren’t paying attention but it could also be that the directions weren’t clear or the child is not an auditory learner and can’t picture what the teacher is talking about. No matter what the case, if there is a problem, we need to quickly assess and evaluate and troubleshoot to solve it.  To take the extra step to blame or pass the buck is just that: an extra step.  It is neither efficient nor EFFECTIVE.

I’m old enough and experienced enough to know that if I have another problem with my door, I will continue to seek the help I need to fix it.  But I wonder about my son.  The next time he has a question, will he ask it? Or, will he blame himself and stay stuck?  

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