I am often asked this question; “What do you you think of teachers?” Parents ask me this, students ask me this, other tutors ask me, as well as teachers. After I listened to myself answer this question about 1000 times I got the idea of writing about it and posting it to this website. That way I could refer anyone that really wanted to know more than I had time to tell them about this topic in the course of my day. There never seems to be enough time to really communicate an idea completely and well in this current culture. The first thing that seems to run out is attention span.
You could say the word, “teacher” to 10,000 different people and have 10,000 different ideas come to mind for each of them. This is yet another reason to encourage the use of dictionaries. Without common agreed on definitions of words we have no hope of truly being in communication with one another. So this is what I mean when I use the word “teacher” in this current discussion: A teacher is an individual who communicates with the intention of increasing the knowledge or skill of another while respecting the student’s basic right to accept or reject that which is being communicated. Please note the lack of authoritarian enforcement. Force, duress, coercion, or enhanced interrogation techniques have no place in teaching. Properly done the activity of teaching occurs with mutual respect on the part of all involved.
This is the most common failure on the part of parents. The resort to enforcing an idea on their child causes all learning to cease. The “student” in this case may be able to repeat back memorized information or work some problems, but their knowledge or skill have not actually increased. The size of their “tool box” has not changed. Individuals only add to their actual “tool boxes” voluntarily. By tool box I mean the sum total of what they know and what they are willing to use. This idea of be willing to use what has been learned is the key here.
Individuals who have been “taught” under duress tend to discard that which was “taught” when the authority is out of sight or effect. The information never was really theirs, because it was forced on them.
Creating rapport, an atmosphere where thoughts and ideas can be exchanged freely, is vital in the activity of high speed learning. Only when the student is free to communicate everything that they are thinking, can that thinking be evaluated and corrected. This way concepts can be rapidly and accurately grasped. It is an atmosphere which is very high in trust and caring. The emphasis is in accurately duplicating an idea, not on making someone wrong. Once a concept is grasped then the understanding is reinforced by applying what has just been learned. The student is given an opportunity to demonstrate their newly won competence through problem sets, case studies or real world application. This results in an increase in morale which allows for even faster learning.
I think teachers who are involved in the activities that are described above are the most valuable people in the world.
What do you want to know?
So if you could learn anything easily, what would it be that you would want to know about? I do not mean just a bit of information here or there; what do you want to become an expert on? What do you want become so familiar with that your certainty on that subject and in that area would be unshakable? For me it was the subjects that I faced in engineering school. I needed calculus help and physics help so I turned to private tutoring to solve my problems. The help with math that I got was not of any real value. So I got really curious about it. I got curious about how others were solving the problems that I was having in learning seeming learn-able subjects. I started a journey on studying how to study. It has lasted many years. It is a subject about which you could spend countless hours talking about openly with high school, college and university students. And not-so-openly with technical professionals many whom operate in an atmosphere of terror of being found out that they do not know something that everyone thinks they know. It makes life less enjoyable for all if you cannot learn the things that you want to learn easily.
Very often I encounter the responses such as these: “I was done with learning when I graduated from high school” or “after I graduated with my engineering degree if I never saw another professor again it would be too soon”. Or I get less forthcoming answers to the question: “how was your university experience?”, like ,”it was interesting…” Clearly many individuals did not find “higher education” (and there is much doubt about the validity of that term) enjoyable. But then in my travels I found those that loved it. What was the difference in these two groups?
This current discussion I am limiting to subjects which when known and applied yield verifiable results. Physics, Chemistry, Applied Mathematics and the various engineering disciplines are included in this group. The Arts, from the Middle Ages up until the early modern era, were comprised of seven subjects, the trivium (grammar, rhetoric and logic) and the quadrivium ( arithmetic, geometry, astronomy, and music) . This is what was studied at universities in Europe to prepare a student for more advanced specialized studies. Today the term the Arts refers to, ” a broad range of subjects, varying according to time and place but now generally taken as including languages, literature, philosophy, history, and other areas of study concerned with the processes and products of human culture and thought” (“art, n.1”. OED Online. June 2012. Oxford University Press. 14 August 2012). The term is interchangeably used with the term , “the Humanities”.
Where as the applied sciences have given us a tremendous a leap forward in understanding the physical universe in which we find ourselves, the Humanities have utterly failed to provide anything remotely close in the form of work-ability. The task of the Humanities was and is to further the understanding of ourselves in a sensible and responsible way. As war is still rampant on the planet, learning is poorly understood (based on the observable lack of consistent results), economies wildly fluctuate despite the desperate pronouncements of the charlatan economists, and populations starve even though we have the technology to prevent it, the observable fact is that the job has not been done. Yet in these subject areas pomposity rules. The aloof self-satisfied posturing militates against any valuable self evaluation of the effectiveness of the Humanities as they exist today on the part of those who are supposedly studying and conducting research in them.
It seems to be that the more intellectually able a deceptive individual is, the more complex the deception that is presented by them will be. It seems that the deceptions have reached a level of lunacy in the Humanities, that those that produce them are the only ones convinced of their validity. Yet anyone can see that this job has not been done. All you have to do is look.
Here I will provide guidance, assistance and help with subjects that have work-ability, high work-ability. Endeavors that produce predictable unvarying results.
Is everything understood in Physics, Mathematics, Chemistry and other areas? No, of course not, there is still much work to be done. It is a rewarding adventure for individuals of any age. This is my invitation. What do you want to know?