Thought experiment to demonstrate the value and necessity of paying attention:
If a class leaves the room with papers and pencils and other scraps on the floor, tell the custodian to leave it till tomorrow that you’ll have the class clean it up. The next morning crumple up a five dollar bill and another foreign currency that looks like Monopoly money and throw them both on the floor. The students enter and without any promoting see what happens: if none of the students spots the five you can pick it up and tell them to pay attention, ask them what else they’re overlooking. If someone spots the five but not the foreign money that’s actually worth more on the currency market, ask them why they spotted the five (because it’s something they know has value) and ask them why they overlooked the foreign currency.
A great thing happened on a hike with my nephew: we stumbled upon a decent sized puffball mushroom and my nephew asked me if he could kill it. I paused to think of what would be the best course. I decided to ask him if that’s what he wanted to do, and I really didn’t know what to expect. He looked at me then at the mushroom and really thought about it before saying, ‘No, I’m going to let it grow.’
So, this article got me thinking about pedagogy, and what I don’t go in for
I read Pinocchio a few years ago (curious why some stories are bigger than their authors and some authors are bigger than their stories). Well, anyhow, there’s a great scene in it where a poor carpenter tries to bend the piece of wood, which becomes Pinocchio, to his will with frustrating results, and then a master carpenter who doesn’t try to go ‘against the grain,’ but works with the wood to fine results.
I think the content of instruction really does matter, and I do think that students have an individual latent character you can’t break- or shouldn’t want to- but also a universal latent desire for the good that can be easily misguided, and the student needs a humble but passionate teacher to guard against the way our fallen world can misguide our desires.
I’ve heard many different sorts of analogies (the palimpsest is interesting); what is important, though, is that teachers (that’s you) don’t lose sight of either the individual character or the universal desire to play a part in, even conform with, the larger truth and beauty (wisdom is knowing the difference between a shallow status grubbing conformity and a deeper, richer spiritual conformity). So, I’m inclined to think something important is missing from the blank slate model where you just fill a student with rules and strategies as well as the opposite model where you’re afraid to have any effect at all.
So, the angling editor wrote about a time when a guide told him his secret to success: he made his sports pick their own flies, because then they cared about them more and they fished with more purpose and the experience was more memorable that way.
Well this really got me thinking as a teacher first. It’s so important for a student to know why something he is learning is important to him personally.
I think I’m also drawn to this little anecdote because I like ‘picking’ with my brother- driving around and finding something interesting.
Then I thought about how it’s very easy to care about something we pick- also how we sometimes care for things we don’t pick, though.
When you love somebody you don’t lose your freedom to pick- it just isn’t as important anymore. You’re happy just to be with that other person, so that everything she picks makes you happy and you care about it.
That’s the mystery, eh? How much do we pick our love and why is it that we don’t care as much about picking afterwards? You can pull at the picking end of the thread or the loving end and you’ll just make that knot tighter, I think.