The Dials on the Dashboard

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Intuition is one of cognition's most fascinating features. It's hard to say just how exactly a welder knows how to adjust the travel speed of their electrode based on the adjustment of their machine settings and based on the machine's performance which varies from machine to machine.


I imagine flying a plane to be similar. I look at the dashboard in a cockpit and think, "Those are all controls for variables." I do the math in my head for how many variables can be manipulated from the seat in a cockpit and I am immediately humbled by the amount of control one is able to maintain and capitalize on. Even in a crisis situation.


I have painted these pictures to best describe, as words and my writing ability will let me, my art of teaching style.


A pluralist by definition is someone who believes "a theory that there is more than one basic substance or principle"


Empathizing with a non-pluralist is a struggle for me. Then again, I envy the comfort a non-pluralist must feel to be so set in their ways and confident in their actions.


So where is this philosophical writing airplane pilot teacher taking you? A fly-through that forces the use of adjustments on my dashboard. 


Take off conditions are clear. You see a few empty seats in the room. You adjust the engines for the weight. Sometimes the empty seats mean an improved performance, sometimes it means a reduced performance. You never really know for sure, you simply react.


Weather looks great but there is a storm building in the vicinity. You can see the clouded judgement through the windows of the soul. You prepare reactionary measures knowing that re-routing around the storm is not an option. Instead you are aware that the wrong action could accelerate and grow the storm. You are also aware that another wrong action can create small rumblings of thunder in other areas. You are also aware that the right action means a clear weather report for most of the journey.

Sometimes takeoff goes smoothly. You are cleared from the tower right away. Other times the passengers are intentionally causing delays as remaining at ground level is quite a bit more comfortable. 


As the flight goes underway you are often pulled from your cockpit. It's time's like these you're thankful for autopilot, if it's working. Even if it is though, you're annoyed as the justification for you being pulled from your cockpit ("All track players will be loading the bus at 2:45 today, I repeat all track players will be loading the bus at 2:45 today, that is all track players will be loading the bus at 2:45 today). It has a deafening effect but you proceed.


The bathroom seems to be in extra demand during the flight. You question whether or not to shut it down. 


All of a sudden a chicken flies into one of your engines. Yes, a chicken. At 30,000 feet a frickin' chicken goes into one of your engines. It's the type of thing you really can't explain the how or the what of the chaos except by making some weird analogy to I don't know, the teaching profession, on your blog. But, yes a chicken is in one of your engines and all you can hear is "Mr. Captain, Mr. Pilot Man, Mr. Captain, I'm going to yell something at you that you already know. There is a chicken in the engine." The other passengers chime in as well, you know, just in case you were unconscious and deaf. 


 Man this is just the flight. I haven't even got into the details that are on my dashboard. They have titles like:


intrinsic motivation gauge

extrinsic motivation gauge

activate social skills switch

a strengths to weaknesses dial

a motor skills gauge

communication ability gauge

a visual literacy meter

a writing ability meter

leadership opportunities lever

accountability systems


structure vs. chaos dial

IKEA effect success vs realistic failure dial (right next to the motivation dial)

relationship building activation switch (works best when "on-task" lever deactivated)

teamwork vs independence dial vs. direct guidance dial

craftsmanship vs completion dial (also next to the motivation dial and next to the "It adds character" spectrometer)

confidence vs humility dial

lavatory capacity meter

avoidance detection

brain fatigue detection

lie detection

emotional state analysis 


I write all of this to communicate to you that my priorities are not always consistent and that I readjust the dials based on passenger load, invisible backpacks (a term used in the teaching industry to describe the emotional baggage students bring with them), and chickens in engines. I adjust the dials for each individual passenger, and even my own personal well-being.


I've met teachers who have their dials pretty well set. They are great teachers. I'm not sure I'm any better than some of them. I've crashed a few planes playing with the dials too much. Then again, I've landed a few impossible missions. For all I know dial-adjustment vs. consistency may average out to the same sum at the end of the day. Heck, I may be pulling in a negative by some comparisons. 


That's part of the way a pluralist has to think though. And as a pluralist , I will remain constantly playing with the dials, always with the intent to get the best flight possible.  


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