Monday, November 26, 2018

My Favourite Mechanic (and how he teaches the teacher)

I've been meaning to follow up my post on how my Cross Fit coach helped me to be a better teacher with one about another non-educator "schooling" me on how I can improve at my job by watching him do his.  Now is my chance.

This is my mechanic, Jeremy.

Jeremy works at Redline Automotive. He takes care of my car, but more importantly, he takes care of me and my family. How? What's so special about this guy?

Before I explain, let me provide some context. I drive, but I know very little about how cars actually work. In the past, before I started taking my car to Redline, this lack of knowledge was problematic. I'll admit that I've been "fleeced" in the past by dealerships and other car repair places that charged me lots of money for repairs or work that I didn't really need. My father used to accompany me when I took my car in, but nothing makes you feel as uncertain and immature as having to bring your Daddy when you need an oil change. I'm not sure when or how I discovered Redline, but I'm glad I did. It hasn't been a perfectly smooth ride, but the way things are handled even then are part of the reasons why Jeremy (and the crew) has earned my trust and respect.

1) Jeremy makes me feel like I'm his most valuable customer.

Jeremy is busy in the shop but when I come to pick up my vehicle, he doesn't ship me off to whomever is working the front desk. (That wouldn't be a hardship, as Sue, who usually handles the reception area, is a delight to talk to.) He never makes me feel like it's a chore to interact with me. I'm not just a job to get done and push aside. Jeremy makes me feel welcomed. He doesn't hurry through our interactions, even though there may be other people in line. He even takes the time to ask how things are doing in general, not just car issues.

The lesson I can learn from this as a teacher? = Make every student feel like they are my "favourite". Be welcoming and eager to talk to a parent who approaches me.

2) Jeremy explains procedures and costs while still giving me choice.

I have no clue what needs fixing or why things need replacing. Jeremy takes the time to explain them to me. He'll even bring me the part to show where there's wear and tear so I can see it for myself. Car bills are often unpleasant because of the size (and sometimes the unexpected nature of receiving them). Jeremy and his fellow mechanics Charlie and John try to "break the news" as gently as possible. Before doing any work, they call and check in with us, to get approval. The wonderful thing is that if a job can wait, or is a low priority, Jeremy and his co-workers let us know. We are not obligated to buy any parts or do any work. I remember my brother telling me that Redline called my father (who has now started bringing his car there) to tell him, "No Mr. DeFreitas, you don't need X and Y done. Your car doesn't need it."

The lesson I can learn from this as a teacher? = Don't try to "save time" by skipping sharing the rationale or process description. Knowing how and why we do things may increase both compliance and engagement. Also, provide options as often as possible. It makes people feel like they have some control over the situation, which makes them willing to work with you.

3) Jeremy is super-patient and empathetic.

Last Tuesday, I took my car in to replace my all-season tires with winter tires. It turns out that I need new winter tires. Redline tried to call, but Tuesday was a particularly busy day and I couldn't get to my phone. My husband was reluctant to approve the purchase of four new tires without consulting with me so I picked up my car without getting anything done. Jeremy could have been irritated. ("Why didn't you answer your phone?") Jeremy could have been dismissive. ("You, who knows nothing about tires, think THAT'S expensive?") He was neither. "I understand" is what he said. "You must have been very busy." "I can store these tires for you here until you make your decision." Turns out the price was on par with the industry average for the quality of the tires they offered, and so on Thursday, I took the car back to have the work done. No eye-rolls. No "I told you so"s. Redline got the job done.

The lesson I can learn from this as a teacher? = Duh! Be just as patient and empathetic! Just like Jeremy with his automotive expertise, not everyone has my level of training (I have a BEd and MEd) but I need to meet people where they are at, and put myself in their shoes.

4) Jeremy knows how to fix cars and will be honest when he doesn't know the answer.

Jeremy knows his stuff. He can diagnose problems very well. Having said that, he's not a magician or miracle worker. In fact, there was one time in the past where we brought in the car and every time we thought it was going to be ready, it wasn't. We were told to try again the next day, and then the day after that. I'm the only driver in our family and we only have one car. This lack of wheels started to negatively impact our daily life. But here's the thing. I spoke to Redline. I said that I was frustrated about continually being told that it might be ready by the end of a day, only to discover that it wasn't. I said I was disappointed and that I'd prefer to be told that it'd be a longer period of time and then pleasantly surprised when it was ready, instead of strung along with false hopes of a ready car. They listened. They admitted that they were having a challenging time diagnosing the issue. They helped me rent a car and they deducted part of the labour costs. I had friends that said I should find a new mechanic after this incident, but I disagreed. I really admired how, when they realized that I was unhappy, they worked with me and were upfront about the difficulties.

The lesson I can learn from this as a teacher? = Demonstrate that I know about how to teach (without ever lording it over someone) and be truthful when I am struggling to find a solution or reach a particular student.It's okay to not be perfect, and admit it in a way that doesn't undermine credibility but shows vulnerability.

There's one more minor thing that makes working with Jeremy wonderful. For a brief time, I was his elementary school teacher librarian! When I first moved to my current school in 2004, he was in his last year. I tried to find a photo of Jeremy in my school scrapbooks, but he wasn't in my Grade 7 math class or any of my clubs or teams. Just take my word for it that he was a bit shorter than he is now, but just as nice!

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