middle brow citizen how

in the human.

polly's grandma polly. (i should say: one of polly's grandma polly's. both of her grandma's are named polly. ain't that the most adorable fucking thing ever? ... one of them i never had the pleasure of knowing. as she's been peacefully resting in michigan for quite a bit. but whoa did she seem cool. more on that someday. for now, i'll just discuss polly nevins. not my wife polly nevins. but my grandmother-in-law polly nevins.)

anyway: in addition to being a dancer, polly nevins was a schoolteacher. (so was polly mcgurrin, in fact.) she taught children. and so, naturally, she has a schoolteacher's perspective on many things. and a couple christmases ago, she was trying to get into lyft. but it wasn't coming so easily to her. she'd rather dance to an ear-blistering waltz in her foyer than spend time on trivial things such as summoning drivers. though, she will say, that she had the most *lovely* time in a lyft from her home to the eye doctor last week. with the most *lovely*  man as her driver. and anyway she values her independence. she only recently stopped driving. at 90. she's a special woman with an incredible energy and subaru. but lyft is now her vehicle (!) for expending that energy. 

but back to lyft: she was having a hard time cracking the code. so i volunteered to teach it to her. and wrote it all down. in steps. on an index card that she'd keep in her clutch. ... about halfway through the lesson, she grabbed my arm, looked at me briefly and seriously. and then turned to polly to say "this man must be a teacher. he just keeps repeating himself over and over again." and it was funny. but also true! sorta. ... i could never claim to do the hard work that schoolteachers all over the world do. day in and day out. their job is so much more complex and difficult than simply "teaching" is. but i had been teaching, in the definitional sense of the word, for about 13 years. ... for money after college, and in law school, and even sometimes as a lawyer, and then most certainly while trying to get middle brow off the ground, i taught LSAT prep. (don't worry! i only raised ethical law students!) 

so: teaching LSAT prep is tough: there aren't grades. there isn't homework. the material is extremely demanding. and voluminous. and classes were 4 hours. twice a week. from 6-10p. after most students had spent the day in school or at work or otherwise tiring out their brains... and so after the first 30 minutes, it was hard for students to pay attention. and i quickly learned something important about humans: they *never* absorb everything you tell them the first time. they probably only absorb 5% of what you're saying. so if you repeat yourself several times, they start to absorb more and more. eventually, though, you gotta move on. but it's crucial that when you return to a topic that you've already addressed, you don't presume that anyone knows what you're talking about. and you repeat yourself yet again. and then 3 or 4 more times before moving on again. several days of this, over the course of several weeks, and you've got a student who knows what you're talking about.

that taught me something critical about management at the brewery. and in the front-of-house and back-of-house: to be generous with my fellow humans. to understand their humanity. that breweries and kitchens and floors are busy, overwhelming places. and brains get very quickly get very tired by all the activity. and the context in which we're *teaching*, in a sense, our staff to do things the way we need them to be done, is not very conducive to them learning with any sort of speed. we need to repeat ourselves over and over and over. and after a few weeks, we should expect to see changes. *not*, it's important to note, after a single lesson. or even after a single day or two. the timeline for effective and full absorption is measured in weeks. it's inhumane to expect anything sooner.

i reckon all good teachers know this. and are thus, by nature or experience, patient-as-fuck people. but non-teachers should know it too! it makes for good managing. it makes for good parenting. it makes for good friending, even! and so i thought i'd share my experience. with all of you dear readers. 


one other thing i learned in teaching cocky college kids: verbal direction is totally ineffective. in teaching, and in developing good relationships. if you want your students to learn "right", or your staff to work "right", you have to *do* the thing you want them to do. with them by your side. over and over and over again. tell a student to do a problem alone, and they'll do it fully and correctly about 10% of the time. it's not because they're lazy or bad students or disrespectful. it's because they're human. better put: they're tired humans. and new motions are hard. and decision-making is tiring. and synapses form during sleep anyway. so it tends to take time before the thing is done "right". ... but ask them to help you do the thing that they were supposed to do alone, or simply do it for them and tell them you did it, and how and why you did it, and they'll think a bit harder about it next time. 

this applies fully to restaurant management: if you want your staff consistently to sweep up all the semolina that spills onto the floor during an intense pizza shift, start by doing it yourself! several times. and then start doing it halfway, and asking them to finish up so you can go tend to another task. and slowly but surely they'll develop the muscle memory and eye memory for the task. and do it long before even you see that it needs to be done.

of course: you have to be careful. that they don't just depend on you always to do the thing. but that just takes a particular, thoughtful tack and focus and persistence by the manager. or the teacher. or the parent.

anyway, this rant ain't that ranty. or preachy. or political. or beer-focused. but hopefully it makes you think about humans a bit differently. hopefully it makes you a bit more generous with friends and family. and patient with co-workers. and strangers. 

after all, just like you, the rest of us are merely human. with more sames than differences.