As a teacher, I comment on a lot of student writing. I usually do this digitally, as my handwriting is so awful as to make doctors weep. And, because students in the same classes tend to be learning the same things at the same time, I often find myself needing to say the same thing over and over, to lots of students in lots of different classes.
Since I need to be able to inject these comments quickly, easily, and repeatedly, I’ve been trying to find a good way to automate them for some time now. In my last attempt, I’ve figured out a pretty good way to do this—solving a long-standing problem I’ve had with Keyboard Maestro in the process.
I fiddle around with a lot of things. It’s in my nature. I began listing my recent forays into configuring email as an example, and I realized quite quickly that the odyssey ought to be its own post. The reason I do this sort of fiddling, though, almost always composed of two intertwining mental phenomena:
- I know what I need, and
- I know the limitations of the thing I’m fiddling with.
Sometimes, when we’re talking about software or something similar, I know up front what the limitations are; often, though, I only find out by playing around with it. Likewise, I often know what I need up front; other times, though, I only find out what I need by finding out where my needs rub up against the limitations of whatever it is I’m trying to work with.
As I was listening to Back to Work 71, I started thinking about the problems that exist in organizations—things like the passive aggression that Merlin and Dan were discussing—as functions of that same pair of forces. More specifically, it made me think about the problems I have as a teacher with my students, the problems my students have with me as a teacher, and perhaps most importantly, the problems I have with myself as a teacher. All these problems—and perhaps all problems—come down to a conflict between one party’s expectations and another party’s limitations.