Hammers and Nails

The conversations around social and emotional learning have been a focus both at the district level and on our campus this year, specifically the ways in which we help struggling learners.  In fact, our district created a brand new arm of support services specifically around this concept and to support schools as we work with struggling students.  After a conversation we had as a staff, a teacher passed along a book that she had used the year previously that changed her mindset and practices she used in class to support her kids.  It wasn’t long into the book that I came across this quote from Abraham Maslow.



Pretty good, right?  Let’s look at this from two different perspectives:

  1. If we only have one tool, no matter how creatively we try to use it, it likely won’t be completely effective.  While I’m sure you could show me the several ways you can use a hammer the reality is it makes a painfully inadequate wrench.  If you’ve ever tried to take a bolt out with a hammer you have likely ended with a hot mess and bolt that is no longer useful. Perhaps it’s human nature to avoid real change; we sometimes try to stretch our current practices beyond their limits as opposed to engaging in new learning.
  2. When folks only have one tool, they discount the idea of using anything else.  If all you’ve ever used is a hammer, and the hammer has always worked, why would you even entertain picking up an allen wrench?  If the hammer doesn’t work, then there must be something wrong with bolt that has a hexagonal socket, right?  Wrong.  Just because something worked in the past doesn’t mean it is always the right tool for the future.

So this is what I’m left wondering: why is it so hard for some folks to figure out there are times to set aside the hammer?  Maybe it’s pride, the hammer was always the right tool in the past and for that axiom to hold true it must always be the right tool in the future.  Perhaps it has something to do with fear, some adults can’t manage the idea that after so many years of knowing what to do they might find themselves in a place that requires new learning.

I do want to add this, and it may infuriate those of you who have been nodding emphatically while reading this so far: let’s be careful that we don’t let the pendulum swing too far and decide that there is no such thing as a nail anymore.  A hammer might not always be the right tool, but sometimes it will be exactly what we need, let’s not lose sight of that fact.

It seems like there are no easy answers when it comes to working with humans, especially those ages 4-11, but we will continue to do the best we can, fill our toolboxes with all the right tools, and remain #conditproud.



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