A Sandwich Artist Sets Me Straight

I like Subway sandwiches, but it took me forever to figure out how to order what I want.

“I’ll take a foot-long,” I kept trying to say. “But please cut it in two, making one side two-thirds and the other side one-third.”

This didn’t work. On road trips, I’d get blank looks—Subway after Subway.

Finally, a sandwich artist (which is what Subway calls their sandwich makers) clued me in.

“Now what exactly are you trying to do?” she asked.

I should have known better.

In education, we call this backward design—beginning with the end in mind. When people know where they’re going, they’re more likely to take the right steps. This is why I look at the pictures above recipes, why my grandchildren watch pro-scooter tricks on YouTube, and why the app I’m using to learn German gives me the pronunciation of a word before I try to say it.

Ever since the sandwich artist set me straight, I’ve been using backward design at Subway.

“My husband and I are sharing this sub,” I say. “And he wants the bigger part.”

“About right here?” they ask, their knives hovering in just the right place.

And all I need to do is nod.

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