Saturday, January 5, 2013

Thank Goodness Plumbing is not on the ACT!

I have absolutely no doubt that if you gave me a high-stakes standardized test in plumbing, I would fail.  Hands down.  In the eyes of some folks, especially those who believe that students should be repositories for vast volumes of knowledge readily available to spit out on the ACT, SAT or some other manufactured bubble test, I would be a failure because when it comes to industry standards for residential plumbing, I know squat.


That's probably why my spouse encouraged me to call a professional plumber when mysterious growling noises started coming from the pipes of our home earlier last fall. Flush the toilet, and as the tank refilled it soon sounded like we just woke up some ornery old man next door. Same when we turned off the shower or the washing machine was filling up. We've lived here since 1984 but this had become a recent phenomena.


As I usually do when faced with a puzzling new problem, I procrastinated. Well, not totally. I did use Google to search for others with the same problem but the solutions served more as band-aids and the growling soon returned. I had zilch for a knowledge base and so I guess I could be labeled as a failure. I could see it in my mind: A multiple-choice question on groaning pipes with four possible solutions. Sigh! I would suck.


Eventually, I shut off the water and we took off on a Caribbean cruise far away from our noisy plumbing. Out of sight (hearing) out of mind. But in the back of my mind I knew that when we got home around Christmas, I'd be left to face my failure and give in to hiring an expensive plumber.


I procrastinated a few more days (plumbers are even more expensive on holidays). Then, instead of making the call, I Googled it one more time and there in front of me were no less than two YouTube videos not only helping me to pinpoint the problem but also illustrating the steps I needed to take to permanently fix it. I always like it when explanations go beyond the fix and include an explanation in terms I understand (pictures help, too) why it became a problem in the first place. You just can't beat a little theory with practical application.


The solution took one trip to the hardware, $20 in parts, and no more than forty-five minutes to do the repairs. No more growling pipes and best of all, no expensive plumber bill.


My point is that in the end I wasn't a failure because I exercised the most valuable skills I ever learned in school: (1) don't give up and learn from your failures, (2) it doesn't matter if you haven't learned everything, as long as you have learned how to learn, and (3) narrow-focused bubble tests may be amusing (and profitable) to the political and corporate education reformers, but they mean little with regards to what it actually means to have learned.


In the end, I didn't fail. That's more important than passing a bubble test.