In one of my favorite SNL skits, “Fix it,” Seth Meyers asks financial analyst Oscar Rogers what we should do about the economy. “Fix it!” shouts Oscar Rogers. “So what exactly should be done?” asks Seth. Oscar responds: “It’s a simple three step process. Step one: fix! Step two: it! Step three: fix it!! Then repeat steps one through three until it’s all been FIXED!” “How do we begin to fix it?” “Fix it!” “Who’s going to fix it?” “THEY are! They gonna fix it because THEY broke it! Fix it, fix it, fix it!!!”
The skit is brilliant, a satire of the living room trolls who shout “fix it!” from the comfort of their couch. The skit was written as commentary on attitudes towards the Great Recession, but what makes the skit brilliant is that it’s really much larger than that. The “fix it!” attitude could apply to many fields. Lately I been thinking that the “fix it!” attitude is especially applicable to education.
I’m not referring to the cries of “fix it!” from parents, politicians, and business owners. There is little doubt that there have been frequent cries of “fix it!” from these groups, and that these cries of “fix it!” are hard for educators to handle. But there’s a more damaging “fix it!” approach.
The most damaging “fix it!” approach is not how others view the education field, but how I view the education field, and my own place in it. To teach is to face a constant stream of “fix it!” moments. Yesterday’s lesson didn’t go well. The student I watched improve just took a massive step back and now teeters on the edge of the cliff. The email to a student’s mother seemed alright, but I now wonder if I parsed my words too much and didn’t explain the full extent of her son’s actions.
As an educator I don’t just face imperfection – I swim in it, I breathe it in. There is always a better way to teach, a better way to relate, a better way to model learning. As an educator, this reality of imperfection is both sustaining and draining. Facing my own imperfections every day pushes me to improve to such an extent that I wouldn’t know how to exist as an educator without it.
And yet, such constant contact with imperfection has a darker side – the “fix it!” side. Some days I drive home with a “fix it!” refrain. It wasn’t good enough. The day was lost. The students learned nothing. On those days, I wish I had a better answer. But the reality is that I don’t. The best thing I know how to do is just to let the “fix it!” moment pass, go home, watch some really stupid TV, and wake up the next day prepared to start all over again. The “fix it!” mindset tells me I should have THE answer in class. A sustaining mindset tells me it’s alright if I don’t, and it’s alright even if it doesn’t feel alright.
In the end, perhaps the best answer I know comes from Oscar Rogers himself. Yes, things aren’t perfect. But it happens. And when it does, we should try as best as we can to laugh about it and make it better the next day.