By Julie Shepard, Academic Coordinator, Berkeley Center
Students in Executive Functioning have been learning about the complexities of Multitasking.
Multitasking happens when a person attempts to do more than one task at the same time, accompanied by numerous distractions that cause us to lose our place and have to stop what we are doing.
Multitasking is best illustrated by the work of a front desk clerk who answers the phone to place a person on hold, gives directions to a customer, signs a box for the UPS guy, gives back change and a receipt, then picks up the phone call while waving to a new customer to say non-verbally,“be right with you.”
If that’s confusing to the average person, it’s even more so to a student who has difficulties breaking concentration and then resuming a task. But it can be done, and we proved it successfully!
Several stations were set up, and at each station was a task very different from the previous one; At Station One students wrote a complaint letter to Chevy’s Restaurant to address the bad service they received when they took their grandmother to lunch on Sunday. They were only allowed to write one full sentence at a time. At Station Two, students had to remove seashells from a box and put them in straight rows of ten until the jar was empty. At Station Three, students had to write the alphabet backwards-but they could only put down one letter at a time.
Students who walked up to each station had to decide what stage the process was at and what the next logical step would be. For example, if the letter said, “Dear Chevy’s, I was at your restaurant on Sunday and I was really disappointed by your service,” what would be the next thing to say? Or… if the seashells were on row two, shell 10, do you start a new row or make this row longer? How far apart do you space them? Does it matter?
As the tasks progressed, I observed students begin to delegate tasks, give each other feedback of the progress (this row is almost done, these aren’t spaced out evenly, this looks better). I also observed one student sharing, “Look, I wrote the alphabet frontwards first, and now I can just refer to my sheet.” I was very impressed to see their organizational abilities and problem-solving skills manifesting at each stage of the task’s evolution.
When the tasks were completed and the letter written, we stopped to reflect on what had transpired. I asked for feedback. “Was this as hard as you thought it would be?” One student commented, “I thought it would be harder than it was.” Another student responded, “It got easier as I got familiar with the tasks,” while another said, “I found it interesting, but annoying.” I pointed out that, yes, it’s annoying to be interrupted, but is this kind of a job more rewarding than a job with just one task, like lining up seashells all day and boxing them? How would it be if that were all that you did? Boring?” Students agreed that having several tasks to do would make a day pass quicker, and make a job more interesting too.
For your enjoyment, below is the hilarious letter of complaint written by students. Remember, 10 students wrote this, plus they had to keep stopping to perform other tasks. (One student asked me if the letter “had to be true,” and I said it didn’t.)
I want to tell you about my grandmother. I was at Chevy’s yesterday. She was treated very badly. She was treated badly by evil duck people with feathers. She got food poisoning from the soup. The waiter dropped the tray of food and drinks on her. The wait staff took forever in getting us our food. This was because the leader of the duck people was a Cyborg.
We never want to go back there again, because the Duck People were invading Chevy’s, and they were molting too. They were so rude that Chevy’s got closed down for a while. I am filing this complaint to improve the service of this restaurant.
Thank you for your time,