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Hints from the wise: part 1 December 18, 2011

Posted by Geek 20/20 in Nuts and Bolts, Teaching.
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A lot of advise I am given seems irrelevant until it’s needed. Then I think “Oh yes, so-and so mentioned that!”

Below are short snippets of teaching advice I have received over the years.

Break time: I was in the staff-room making coffee or warming food (I really don’t recall). Bits of conversation drifted over my head. “The old Maths books are the best” said a voice.  I was about to zone out but the voice continued, “When I began teaching there were so many math topics I knew nothing about. I found an old textbook that really helped me.”  Wow I thought so it’s normal to be clueless. After that I stopped berating myself for not knowing everything.

University Lab: In first year I struggled with all things Chemistry when finally exasperated I said to the lecturer “I just can’t do Chemistry” 

“Of course you can” was her reply. There was no smile, no encouragement and no reassurance. Just an honest statement of fact. At the time I was irritated. In fourth year I was given 83% for a chemistry lab report. So she was right I can do Chemistry. Whenever I have a student that tells me something similar, ‘I just don’t get Physics’ or ‘I am so stupid at Math’ . I respond in the same emotionless tone “Of course you can”

Book: From the Narnia chronicles The Horse and His Boy  While in the conversation with the Grand vizier, Mr. Tumnus was asked how he liked Tashbaan the capital of Calormen. Later he told his friends, “I couldn’t just tell him I hated every stone of it!” And gave a more positive response.

Oh the times this tale has saved me.  I grit my teeth and bite my tongue before unburdening myself on people.  It is not always wise to be blunt.

Three cheers for Mr. Tumnus!

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