Houston, we have a problem! (On urgent necessities)

This is my first post for a while and thanks to all the new followers!! I know who y’all are and SO appreciate the mouse click. KyraOcity’s WattShop (Converting Wishbones to Backbones) is my laboratory to developing my own voice again. So here goes:

Today I heard my coach offer a new way of thinking about the common phrase I love “necessity is the mother of invention.” Here I paraphrase a blog I found after looking up the expression.


On the Apollo 13 mission, Houston Space Center’s mission control had a problem at hand after an explosion onboard the vessel forced engineers to save on electricity and oxygen. While they realized that the astronauts on board could make it back to earth, they also discovered they would not have enough air to survive the time needed to return.

“Back in Houston on the ground, engineers copied all the parts that they knew where available in the space station and within an extremely short timespan managed to invent a new gadgets that could clean CO2 out of the air so that they could survive.” (quote)

Today was a challenging day for me. I had to confront a truth about my teaching style that was thwarting the learning needs of my students, “Kyra, we have a problem!” After making myself self feel “guilt,” “shame,” and “powerlessness” that led to wasting most of my day suffering and upset with even a doctor who triggered me (I was upset waiting to happen), it was welcoming to be in a training conversation tonight about confronting what we ordinary people don’t ordinarily confront. We wallow rather than dig deep and study what’s needed and then take the necessary urgent action to save the day. It begins by seeing the light (insight). I see a light.

I have (along with my students) some existing parts I can use to invent new “gagdets” in my instruction. It may take a couple of weeks, it what I want to say, but if I acted like I was one of the engineers in mission  control (I am the teacher after all), then finding a way in a short time with urgency will make the difference. Don’t talk, demonstrate change.

Curiously, the students in my political sociology course (a new course for me and a new disciplinary realm) had a conversation about the feelings of “guilt,” “shame” and “powerlessness” that surfaced as we read a graphic reportage by Pulitzer-prize winning journalistic Chris Hedges and Maltese-American cartoonist Joe Sacco about the poverty, racism, exploitation, and alcoholism on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota, one of the poorest places in the United States.

In a moment of inspiration and curiosity, a lightbulb went off. What if those three things “guilt,” “shame” and feeling “powerless” in the face of changing our own habits (i.e., procrastination, overeating, snoozing, etc.), far less challenging than changing our world or society’s problems, are the very things stopping us from realizing we can actually get into action, copy the parts (that work) and invent the gadgets or tools, to make a difference at a local level?

Once you declare “we have a problem,” what’s ineffective is thinking about how you feel about it. What I see for myself as an instructor is that I have work of my own to do–nose to the grindstone, creative, urgent and necessary work to get my feet back down to earth.

Ride, Sally Ride!!


One thought on “Houston, we have a problem! (On urgent necessities)

  1. Sounds as if you’ve come face-to-face with the “Classroom blues” an oh-so-familiar place for those of us who struggle to educate, share our years of learning, and continue the process of learning as we engage our students. You went from “rue it” to “do it” — courageous woman.


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