Saturday, 15 February 2014

The Big Green Buddha: on the educating of people and dogs

I've been teaching and (I hope) learning for a long time now.

Inside and outside of classrooms ...

In swimming pools ...
(I learned to swim properly in my 30s.)

Kits Pool gate will open again on May long weekend!
On the literal and metaphorical road & water ...
(Why can't rowing be liking riding a bike??)

  In gyms and community centres ...
(Yeah, I hate yoga, but I used to teach aerobics.)

And now, of course, in a whole variety of settings with Freddie.

If I didn't have laundry to do this morning, I could pontificate at length on the subject of education. But pontificating is probably the very least effective of the teaching strategies in my repertoire ... and the laundry basket is really too full to ignore. So I will (try to) restrict myself to a few thoughts, inspired mainly by my recent mentoring of Leah's splendid teenage son, Dug (featured in this post).

I say "mentoring" rather than "tutoring" because Dug (Grade 11) is already extremely competent in English (our focus is literary analysis) and could, I suspect, handle English 1127 at Langara College.

Yesterday we met — appropriately, I thought — under the watchful eyes of the Big Green Buddha.

Working with Dug is the ideal teaching scenario: motivated student, motivated teacher, supportive families (Leah, John, Paul), time and space aplenty. (The first of these is often a challenge at Langara, where, in 1st year English courses anyway, most of the students are taking the class because their program requires it, not because they want to.)

Lofty Ambitions

In my enthusiasm I probably overloaded Dug with too much information, but he graciously put up with me. Afterward, Leah and I took the dogs to the North Shore, and in the occasional moments of silence I pondered successes and screw-ups — my own and others' — in the world of education.

Steps and Plateaus

Enlightenment 1

Enlightenment 2

One of the important things I've learned about learning (mentioned in this post) is that positive reinforcement works.

Another (pontification alert!) is that learners need to be met wherever they happen to be. I've certainly screwed up in this respect, and perhaps that's why I'm especially alert to failures in this area — teachers who become impatient, even angry, with a student for not having mastered whatever it is the student came to the teacher to learn (and who often guard their knowledge selfishly, as something to be purchased at a very high cost). I've encountered such impatience in the academic world and, over the past year, in the world of dog training — a discipline I've come into with lots of motivation but very little knowledge or practical experience. Meeting the student wherever she happens to be might mean directing her to a different class, or even assigning a failing grade at the end of the class ... but neither of these scenarios need involve impatience, frustration, anger etc.

Enlightenment 3

And on that note, I must really attend to the laundry!

I leave you with a photo of our new ceiling-mounted laundry rack, expertly installed by Professor Paul. My contribution to the installation was a literary/construction joke — Q: What do you call an Irish-made ceiling beam than meanders confusingly in all directions? A: James Joist.

Spot the dog, and may all your teachings be enlightened!

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