I could go on and on about this subject, but that will have to wait for a later date since it’s past 1 AM and my brain cells are rapidly losing function. Suffice to say, as both an educator and an educatee, I have found that despite the teacher and student’s best efforts, it can take a very long time for things to click. People approach the world, and consequently whatever they may be attempting to teach/learn, very differently, with different sets of foreknowledge and assumptions. This is why very intelligent people are not always good teachers–they can have difficulty approaching a subject they know thouroughly from the point of view of a novice or outsider.
Figuring out how a student is approaching the material, what misconceptions they may have or what terms or statements they may interpret differently from the teacher, can be the hardest part of teaching. It can also be the most fun; I learn new ways of looking at the constellations or lenses or circuit diagrams or the dreaded mass-on-a-spring problem every time I work with someone new to the concepts. And it is certainly the most vital, because if teacher and student don’t speak the same language, how can they hope to communicate their thought processes and understanding–or lack thereof–of the material?
It was through teaching others that I realized the importance of this skill, but I’ve come to appreciate it perhaps even more as a student.
Here is an excellent example: I have been practicing various forms of dance for the past seven years. Despite the 3+ styles of dance (Okinawan taiko*, ballroom, bellydance, random bits of modern/ballet/jazz/hip-hop/etc) and at least a dozen different instructors, it was not until today, during the bellydance course I’ve been taking for a month or so now, that someone finally managed to successfully teach me how to turn properly. Naturally my turns are not now instantly perfect; I need to practice them a lot. But I finally understand the concept of spotting and how to actually do it, because it was finally explained in a way that made sense to me. (For future reference: Nurses make the best dance teachers. They know the human body well enough to explain exactly what to and what not to do.)
Today has been a big learning day for me; it took over four hours, but I finally managed to teach myself the tubular bind-off for my Showy Seadragons. I went through several books and websites and could not for the life of me get any of the methods described to work until I finally found this video. And then it worked like magic! Well, magic that is just barely stretchy enough to fit over my ginormous instep/heel (I actually have small feet for my height, I swear! They’re just really deformed…), but I’ll take it. Maybe I can make the left sock a little looser…
*I have not for the life of me been able to find a good link to explain Okinawan taiko in English…unsurprisingly, they are mostly in Japanese, which I can’t read. This is the best I could find. Check out their glossary and pictures for a bit more of an insight into the culture. I used to play the paranku, and man do I miss my jika-tabis!