Friday, 11 July 2014

How not to teach

Been to a bit of a shindig recently.

Every year, my parents, and other close relatives rent a rambling old farmhouse near a place called Chwylog, in North Wales. We went there last Thursday afternoon, stayed Thursday and Friday nights, then left on Saturday morning.

There were ten of us in total; my Mum and Dad, my Auntie and Uncle, my Sister and Brother-in-law, their two small children, and Bren and Myself. The full day we spent there was pretty dismal. A low blanket of nimbostratus  made it all both dull and wet pretty much all day.

This day, we awoke a little later than most of the others. Sounds drifted up from downstairs. My Sister was going into town (Criccieth or Porthmadog) on her own to get some time away from the children and to do some shopping. Soon after she'd gone, the older of her two children, a bright, clever, self-contained 4 year old bundle of boundless energy, had accidentally wet herself.

Then we heard it. From the lips of my Mum came the words, "Your Mummy has gone because you wet yourself". Followed closely by "Mummy doesn't love you because you wet yourself".

Bren's eyes were wide. So were mine. I'm still at a loss to explain how these words made me feel.

We got up, dressed, and went straight out. Once out of the door, Bren was in floods of tears. I was angry. We very nearly just went home. Instead we went into Criccieth, and took a walk along the beach.

I wonder if she used to say such things to me or my sister? Or is this something to do with people becoming more reactionary as they get older? For that's what it is. Stimulus. Response. Reactionary. Punishing the mistake. Certainly I remember my Dad behaving this way on many occasions, but my Mum?

I'm thinking of incorporating this approach into what I do.

"Your Mummy doesn't love you any more because you stalled at that roundabout."

"You will get home from your lesson today to find your husband has left you, and all because you bumped into the kerb when doing that parallel park."

Learners don't make mistakes on purpose. Neither do 4 year old girls. Both are trying very hard to please, at least most of the time. Understanding this, though, is not always easy.

Later on, when we got back from our walk, we had the house to ourselves, pretty much. We went for a swim in the pool. We were to go out for a meal later, all except the children and my sister and Bro-in-law. Bren and I offered to stay at the farmhouse and look after them.

After watching me playing with the children in the afternoon, my sister agreed to this, and so it was arranged that everyone but Myself, Bren and the two children would toddle off to Weatherspoons in Porthmadog. I had a look through the cupboards to see what I could make us for our tea. I dug out eggs, onions, spuds, cheese, and a tin of beans. Omelette chips and beans a-go-go! I asked my auntie where the cooking oil was.

She bustled into the kitchen and showed me the bottle, hidden in plain view on a work surface. Then she showed me how to open the microwave, how to chop an onion, how to fry the onion, how to open a tin of beans.

"Do you realise you've just told a grown adult how to open a microwave?" I thought of asking. Instead, I kept my mouth shut, and let her do half of the work of cooking tea for Bren and myself.

Once again,  as a teacher, my approach is very different.

If I meet someone for the first time, I ask questions, and ask them to do some basic things before I start actually doing any teaching. To take someone who can already drive, and talk them through how to put their seatbelt on is both pointless and demeaning.

I don't think we will go next year.

driving lessons in North Wirral? learn to drive in Hoylake? driving instructor in Birkenhead?

1 comment:

Pete said...

There's so much in that post, it could fuel discussion for six months or even a doctorate thesis. There really is.