Lessons Learned from a Can of Spray Paint

I rescued an old filing cabinet this weekend.  A bit rusty and battered, it was headed for the dump.  A little pale periwinkle blue spray paint brightened it up for me and it fills a need in my personal organization.

As an added benefit, this little Labor Day weekend project reminded me of some professional priorities too.

Here’s five reminders I”ll be passing along to my students tomorrow when we’re back to school:

  1. Learning takes time. This project took chunks of time away from all four days of this long weekend. As learners, we need to be patient and committed for the long term.
  2. Learning takes you out of your comfort zone. I wasn’t sure my d0-it-yourself restoration project would work. But it’s okay to be unsure and lacking in confidence. The important idea I want my students to remember is they’re not the only ones who feel uncertain or even anxious – and I want them to try anyway. Use your uncertainty to fuel your desire to know more.
  3. Learning is messy.  This project spread across the backyard: three spray paint cans, two drop cloths, two paint brushes, a screwdriver, several purple sheets of sandpaper, and a mountain of blue nitrile disposable gloves. Slowly, the mess evolves and  you’re done. Use all the tools you need and be sure to clean up afterward.
  4. Sometimes you need a little help. It was hard for me to slide the file drawers back on track. Another set of eyes and pair of hands helped.  Don’t be afraid to ask for help because you often learn even more with a friend than without one.
  5. Do-overs are likely. I didn’t get almost anything right the first time. The paint dripped. I needed to re-sand and start again. The final product is all the better for my perseverance. Don’t give up.

Of course, as a veteran teacher, I know all these things. But it’s interesting to me how much and how often my students are on my mind – even in the middle of a huge project like this.

I’m still learning too. We all are.

And I want my students to know that fact most of all.

In the spirit of #writereal, I need to tell you that in the end, the filing cabinet did not fit in the intended space.  And maybe that’s another lesson too.

Learning means you need to be flexible.

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