Attention to detail, please

English: Open book icon
English: Open book icon (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

There seems to me to be two types of people in this world. There are those who love attention to detail. They believe that if a job is worth doing it is not only worth doing well, but carefully and precisely following a pre-agreed checklist. They like to dot all the “i”s and cross all the “t”s. They like things to be done in a sensible, ordered manner. These people do not like it if others deviate from the checklist or abandon it all together. They do not like it if others point in the wrong direction when describing somewhere they have visited. They do not like it if others dismiss their approach to work and life as pernickety.

Then there is the other type – the type that has a cavalier attitude to life. They fail to see the point of a checklist when they feel they can do the job standing on their head. They don’t see the point in looking for all the “i”s and “t”s to dot and cross. They make snap decisions which they feel are considered judgements. They cannot understand how anyone can take ten minutes procrastinating over a simple “yes or no” question. These people are the work-place mavericks.

These two types of people may be friends. They may hang-out together, go for a beer or even date but, when it gets down to it they really don’t understand one another. “I fail to see why it is so important to you that I point in the right direction when I’m telling you about the new restaurant I went to last week,” I said to a friend of mine. “I fail to see why you fail to see it is important,” was his reply. However, despite our complete lack of understanding of one another, we need each other. How would anything get done on time without the work-place maverick? How would anything get done thoroughly without the attention-to-detailer? We definitely have a symbiotic relationship.

My daughters’ school has introduced a new way of banding reading books. I went to the parents’ information evening a few weeks ago that explained this to us. “It no longer matters that a child reads books in a strict order,” proudly declared the deputy-head. “Instead, they can choose any book they like out of a large selection.” Now, this seemed to make perfect sense to me. There is no point turning kids off reading by making them read books that they are not really interested in. Also, we’ve all read a book series in not quite the right chronological order, haven’t we? I’ve often chosen a book and then discovered that there were another two before it. Has it spoilt my enjoyment of it? Not a bit. But then, perhaps, that’s the maverick in me.

Two weeks ago one of my daughters came home with book five of a six part series. She hadn’t read the other four before it but it mattered not as the story stood on its own. The following week, she came home with book six. Again, it mattered not. On the way home from school on Monday she told me, “I have got books one, two and three this week. Next week I will get book four and books five and six again as they are part of a set.” “But you’ve already read them,” I said. “I know but they are part of a set and because I read them in the wrong order I have to read those two again,” she replied rolling her eyes in a mums-don’t-understand-anything way. “Says who?” I asked. “My teacher,” she replied.

This didn’t make any sense to me. I remembered quite clearly the deputy head saying that books were to be selected by children and the order didn’t matter. “Do you remember what happened in books five and six?” I asked. “Yes,” replied my daughter who then proceeded to explain in great detail the plot of both books. “I don’t see much point in reading those books again,” I said. “Not as you’ve only just read them and remember so much about what happened.” “But my teacher said I have too,” she said her voice quivering in only just held back anger. “I know but…Are you sure she didn’t say you could read them if you wanted to?” “No, she said I HAVE TO READ THEM AS THEY ARE PART OF A SET!” she screamed.

Now, I know my daughter very well. She is an attention-to-detailer in the fullest form. I am sure this is going to cause great clashing and banging of heads in years to come. In fact, it causes great clashing and banging of heads now. I decided that she must have got upset about reading the books in the ‘incorrect’ order and her teacher had said she could read them again in the interests of world peace. However, when I got home and took out my daughter’s reading record, I saw that she was indeed right. Her teacher has decreed that she must reread books five and six as they are ‘part of a set.’ She had even written me a message about it.

And I wonder how this fits in with a school which has an ethos of fostering independent and free-thinking. Surely, insisting children read books in a certain order doesn’t match this at all. They are not being allowed to make their own personal choices, which is an important part of growing-up. And, what’s the worst that can happen if they read a book ‘out of order.’ I guess my daughter’s teacher is an attention-to-detailer too.

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