Back in high school, I had an eccentric teacher who taught me an important lesson that I have not yet learned.
She often ran a little experiment. She would insert into the middle of a massive paragraph of instructions for a complicated test question a short, inconspicuous sentence saying something like, “sketch a Punnett square above today’s date on the Scantron sheet,” or “draw a smiley face next to your name.”
These weren’t fools errands, they were a chance for extra credit. She’d give two additional points to students who performed the task. It was an incentive to read instructions and a lesson to not cut corners where diligence is necessary.
By the time I took the AP Language and Composition test in the spring of junior year, I’d had this teacher for three separate classes. So, you’d think I would have learned her lesson.
But I hadn’t.
On the third free-response essay question, I didn’t read the prompt close enough and ended up building my entire argument on a peripheral issue.
And recently, when I built the second of two IKEA shelves for my sister, I made the incorrect assumption that it would need the same number of wooden pegs per board as the shelf before it.
I know I should read instructions, but I often don’t. I’m working on it.
Image Credit: Map