Who Said Multitasking Was Dead?

I remember reading somewhere a few years ago that there was actually no such thing as successful multitasking. The more things you do at the same time, the less focused you are on any one of them, which understandably leads to poor results. I knew it, I thought then, it never made any sense anyway. But look at me now.

Yesterday, I wrote an article about the woes of Chinese refiners amid the coronavirus crisis (and I swear if I have to write “amid the coronavirus crisis” one more time I’ll scream) while learning what an algorithm is, monitoring the fire, deciding on lunch, and planning my blogs for the rest of the month.

I can’t say I understood much of the algorithm explanation since the teacher tended to hmm and repeat herself a lot but I’d say the Chinese refiners story turned out nicely and the fire didn’t go out, so I’d count this as a relatively successful instance of multitasking. No, I planned no blogs for the rest of the month. I’m only human.

It’s all about needs and circumstances. I would never ever voluntarily listen to a lesson algorithms for second graders. I was forced into it because I forgot to put my earphones on and then I didn’t want to put them on because I was curious just how long the teacher would continue to drone on about every step she took on screen going well beyond the confines of the 20-minute class. Honestly, what is it with some people and time? They have no sense of its passing whatsoever. It’s weird and unpleasant.

I also listened in on a lesson about the senses and, finally, as I happily thought at the time, the hours and minutes of the clock. Here’s why I was so happy. I have been trying to help Little C learn how to read a clock — yes I believe it is still a valuable skill to have even in the digital era — and I have found without much surprise but a lot of frustration I’m horrible at explaining things. So, you can imagine my joy when I heard their teacher — not the one with the algos, the default one, the good one — started explaining hours and minutes to them. Naturally, my joy was killed prematurely.

They had a page of hour and minute-related problems to solve for homework. And they weren’t all of the “Turn 1 h 15 min into minutes” and vice versa sort. Oh, no, there were clocks and the question what time would the clocks show in x, y, and z minutes. And Little C had only me to help her because her dad was working. Talk about crushed expectations.

I bungled the clock problems by which I mean I tried to explain, failed, and resorted to counting the minutes on the clock and telling Little C what answer to write down. I know. It’s the worst thing a parent can do to their children, do their homework for them. But clocks! I simply couldn’t do anything else.

Of course, she was worried the teacher would have something to say about these answers and I told her to blame me, as was only right and proper. I’m the one who can’t add minutes to hours unless they are rendered as numbers and not hands on clocks. I’m the one who counts minutes on said clock. Do your worst.

Luckily, by the time Little C had to do the homework from hell I was done for the day, I had made the bread dough — I’m getting so good at bread-baking you wouldn’t believe it — and I had planned my next day, so there was no need for multitasking unless counting minutes and trying to add them to the initial hour at the same time counts as multitasking. Perhaps it should.

In any case, I’m taking credit for everything even remotely educational I do in the presence of my daughter because this sort of credit is so hard to come by and I like the thought of earning it.

Speaking of which, on that very same day I also checked her English homework, made her correct her errors and plan on asking her to write “please” 40 times. No, not as punishment for anything but to get it right. It’s so easy to forget how hard a foreign language is when you first start learning it, especially so early. Which is no excuse. I insist on accurate spelling and proper pronunciation. Little C has no idea what I’ve got in store for her a year or two from now. I had an A in phonology at university and I like to tell about it to everyone who would listen.

It seems the circumstances that are so conducive to multitasking or even serial tasking, which is also a relatively foreign concept for me, will continue for at least another two weeks. I will eventually get used to it. I’m already halfway there. I just need to write myself a note “Keep the earphones in!” and stick it to my screen. And then, I suspect, just when I’ve got the hang of it, it will be over, we’ll have to go back to the city and they will extend the school year because what is the point of remote education if you can’t make it go to waste? Yeah, we’re still stupid as a species.


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