Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Never say Never About a year ago, I taught an Anatomy and Physiology course at a local college. I put a lot of effort into it and was as creative as I could be in presenting the material. Still, the majority of the class either dropped out along the way or failled to pass. There were no A grades.
The student body of this school is drawn, in large part, from a poplulation in which the parents have no education beyond high school, if that. These young people have had, in almost all cases, no exposure to science. More over, they have not had anything happen in their lives that would lead them to believe in themselves or their ability to learn the material. In fact, they told me at the first class meeting that by midterm half of them would be gone. That had been their experience with education at that level.
Unlike their English and Math courses, where one can study and come to understand the material, my course (by necessity) required the learning of facts, one after the other. That's true, at least, of the anatomy part. This is the heart, this is the left foot, etc.. Physiology, on the other hand, consists of the same process plus understanding how things work. In any event, it was too overwhelming for most of them (I had a dean sit in on my classes so I could be sure it wasn't the way I was teaching...it wasn't...but I digress).
My point here is that (I believe) these fine folks arrived on day one with the belief, I can never learn this stuff. Kind of how a lot of us felt after our first rolling lesson...but I digress...again. In any event, at the end of the course I decided I would never teach there again.
Now, involved in a mentoring program with high school students, I am seeing the best and the brightest of the kids in the neighborhood where I grew up. When I talk with them I find myself exchanging ideas with quick minds that are adept at grasping new ideas. I see a group with a positive attitude, something I've come to learn that they learned at home. And, after meeting their parents, I see how they grew up that way...even though the parents, themselves, have no advanced education.
It occurs to me that there must be a way to bring that pool of college kids around to a place in which they at least believe they can learn something new. There must be a way to guide them and encourage them to a place of confidence. There has to be a way to help them succeed. Hell, even I learned to roll. I also believe that at least part of what they need is an understanding and empathic teacher who is willing to search, along with them, for a way to turn on that little light upstairs and ignite the flame.
My class will be held Wednesday nights starting the second week in January.
Paddle safe...


Michael said...

When I first began riding high-powered motorcycles, I could never really commit to leaning into a fast corner. I'd get around, but always seemed to lack something (read:speed!). One summer I worked with a guy who showed me that confidence, belief in whatever you were doing was the key to being successful. Coming home one day I entered a corner I was having trouble with and just flung the bike over and powered on the gas like there was no tomorrow. It was a revelation. Suddenly every corner after that was smoother, faster and more fun. It was like getting to the point in a kayak roll where everything becomes repeatable roll after roll. Confidence - the belief that you can do it - is everything! Great post!
Begin your new class talking about why your students are good at something. Tell them to hang on to that feeling so they can use it in your course.

Silbs said...

Thanks, Michael. What a great suggestion. That is just what I am going to do.

JohnB said...

Thank you Silbs for your continued search on how to make a difference in our community. Not all of the young people want to fall into the ways of so many of their peers. Unfortunately many of them don’t know of an alternative.

Further, thank you for taking action on the results of your search . . . many search, but few actually take the next step and act on their findings!

You are providing those you touch with an alternative. . .


Silbs said...

I am flattered to get such a fine comment from a man of integrity...and one of my teachers to boot.