Wednesday, June 3, 2009

First Workshop


Anonymous said...

How teacherly with all the right tools -- flip chart, markers, glasses sliding on your nose, attentive students...except bare feet. I never taught in bare feet, but then I don't have students sitting on a blue checkered cloth on the floor.

We used to refer to markers as "magic markers". I guess that was in the hope they would be more intelligent than the teacher, as if by magic they would reveal something the teacher didn't know.

How did we get through all those boring lectures? I doodled -- some of my best drawings fill my note books. The imagination cannot be squandered in an effort to learn.

Even today when I am in a meeting, I look for the flip chart with "executive crayons". I cannot talk to an agenda. I need to visualize -- a word, a drawing, lines, circles, charts.

I've designed multi-million dollar projects on the back of napkins --complete with budgets. The more visual the better -- a memory catcher [akin to a First Nation dream catcher].

You are modest if the tea break is the highlight. I can see in the faces of your "students" they are politely attentive. While politeness may be a national characteristic, take it at face value: they are listening and that is a triumph.

I've had international teaching experiences. In China, I've delivered 4 hour lectures in English to groups who understand only Chinese [gruelling for me; gruesome for them]. I've delivered them in my usual animated way - gesturing, walking round, pointing to key words, which is foreign to Chinese teaching where the expert drones on at the lectern.

The reactions have been the same no matter the group: half fall asleep; half pays rigid attention. Both reactions are disconcerting.

BTW, sleepers really sleep and they don't politely put their heads on the desk and nod off. Heads fall back, bodies slump, mouths open wide, and they having a bunch of Homer Simpsons drooling in the audience.

I've taught in Buenos Aires, Argentina -- me English, them Spanish. But no one nodded off. Instead, half the room smoked.

A blue haze hung over the room, and there was no airconditioning [it was winter]. I choked my way through this.

What saved me was the 3 o'clock break -- not tea, but espresso powerful enough to snap all your synapses. I'm not sure whether the audience was wrapped in attention to what I was saying or simply buzzed.

In Patagonia, the counter to 3 o'clock coffee is the round the clock matte. Matte is "tea", but not Indian or Chinese. I have no idea what the plant is, and I don't want to know.

There is a ritual: the matte cup looks like a hollowed out coconut, but it is not. It is a dried gourd; coconuts don't grow in Argentina. Into this you put dessiccated leaves, fill with hot water, insert a metal straw, and suck all day long, with hot water refills.

In a meeting, sitting in a circle exchanging ideas, you pass the communal matte around. Each person takes his sip, passes it on. No, you don't wipe the straw, and yes, you all drink from the same straw -- as a sign of trust [as in I trust I won't get the same disease you have]. The matte gives you a buzz, so you really don't care about germs.

Matte drinkers rarely head to the head to pee -- they are either camels or this is a reverse macho pissing contest: how long can you go without having to go!

Your pictures convey much politeness. No one is on a cell phone or doing emails on a laptop. People are listening and taking notes.

There is no sign of confrontation. No one doubts the validity of what you are saying or questions your competence. By the very fact you are standing in front of them, you are in a "power position".

I trust you realize this. It's an awesome realization. I never fail to quake when it dawns on me what it means to stand in front of a group.

There is an instant bond and reactions range from rejection of authority [western] to submission to a "better intellect"[eastern]. Neither is totally correct, but then such are the cultural extremes.

Keep well.

Anonymous said...

Looks like you need some energisers.. "One finger one thumb, keep moving....."