Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Learning Disability

A few years ago, a friend mentioned to me: "One problem with being good at learning from a book is, you tend to think you've mastered something just because you read about it."

The more I've thought about that over the last few years, the more I've recognized that as the explanation for all sorts of weird things I've seen.

I remember when I started teaching high school, all sorts of well-meaning but clueless parents were full of suggestions to "help". These suggestions ranged from helpful to stupid, but all centered in a fundamentally broken model of learning.

I taught math and physics, which made me fairly unpopular, not only with students, but also with parents who'd heretofore never had to contemplate the possibility that Jr. wasn't the next Nobel laureate. So they naturally had multitudinous suggestions to improve my teaching. (Because "Johnny needs to work harder" couldn't possibly be it.) I remember one parent in particular was full of praise for a video series her son found helpful in learning Algebra: I even showed the class an episode or two (at her suggestion). I was unable to explain algebra to him, but those videos worked wonders! Or so she thought...

What I didn't consider at the time was, the videos almost certainly would appear to do a good job of teaching math, because they didn't give feedback. That is, anyone can watch a video and say, "Now I understand!" The hard part about being a math teacher is, you give homework, which is tantamount to demanding proof. And that's where life gets difficult.

As I've gotten older ("Too soon oldt, too late schmart"), I've seen that the only proof is in doing. Like those unfortunate students of mine, I've spent a good deal of my life convincing myself I've mastered something contrary to the available evidence.

I've recently decided to learn how to type. You have no idea how painful this is, but there's a certain relief to learning to do something right, to admit I really don't know; but I'm ready to learn.

I sincerely hope that was the experience of those poor kids I taught way back when too.

13 comments:

Shan said...

Oh you're SO RIGHT. Theory is different than practice.

Good luck with typing...

Stace' said...

Too bad that not enough people apply your logic to their faith walk.

KingJaymz said...

Might I recommend teaching yourself the Dvorak layout before you try standard. The only reason I haven't tried to switch to Dvorak is that I haven't had the month's worth of patience it will take to readjust. You can ask MS Windows to make the adjustment automatically without installing any new drivers or programs.

Just a thought...from some article I read on the Internet :p

Chuck said...

Excellent post, redounding with truth.

clumsy ox said...

You know, I considered Dvorak, but decided agin it, because in my line of work, I touch a lot of different systems in a day.

Gwen said...

I like Dvorak, but I prefer Smetana.

I agree with Stace, it's a shame that people (incl. me, probably) don't apply this to their spiritual walk.

Chuck said...

I prefer Bartók to Dvořák.

Eryn said...

i still can't speak a lick of German, but those Faulty Towers videos were hilarious.

Stace' said...

Does your learning disability feel the same in NC?

KingJaymz said...

You'd figure because you're bachin' it in NC you'd have more time to write something thought provoking...especially on a full gut of hand-tossed pizza. Lucky dog...

EPIMENOS said...

But are you willing to recognize, you foolish fellow, that lectures without school-works is useless?

Ames said...

You have been tagged.

Ames said...

You have been tagged.