I was talking today with a Teacher. Of a core subject. You know, the kind of subject you never wanted to take but had to. To the point: this Teacher believes that they are working with–well, to use a metaphor–are building a house with rotten wood. By this I mean this teacher feels an adversarial relationship with the students. They are sub-par. They are not as high quality as we were at the same age. In the motorcycle metaphor they are the squids, flip flop, non-gear or helmet wearing, heavy-browed dunces we like to laugh at.
That’s cool. I get it. We often make ourselves taller by making others shorter. I may be doing that at this very second. Probably am.
The reason this eats at me is that in terms of education her students are at immediate disadvantage. By assuming that a portion of her students (large or small) is dull or slow or–insert less offensive teen complaint here–the class begins with predisposition to be ready to give up on some students. Why? Because what can you do with rotten resources? Not everyone can make the grade!
Bullshit. Pure bullshit. (And I know bullshit pretty good).
The problem is where you believe the problem is. If the problem is kids need to be able to spit out the quadratic equation? Yup. Some can’t. So…throw them on the scrap heap? This particular teacher was pretty clear that “you can’t save them all.”
Motorcycle training can be the best example of TEACHING you’ll ever see. Why? Because it’s truly student based. It’s nurturing. It’s about how what individual students learn, not passing rates. To me, this “teacher’ isn’t. They are an educator perhaps, a clinician who running the the bloody triage of American education has adopted fully the American business ideal of “cost of business”. In other words, you have to throw some raw materials away because you can’t make them what you want them to be. It’s war. Some of them are going to die.
Again, bull. (Tryin’ to clean up my language.)
What I love about teaching motorcyclists is that the Teachers teach. This is a bit of the dreamworld on earth. The goal isn’t passing the test, the goal is that the rising tide lifts all boats. I taught a beginner’s class with a couple of raw rookies as well as experienced riders.
They all learned and improved.
Imagine if you looked at your motorcycle class and, seeing a few backward baseball caps, a doo-rag and tattoos, you said, “Some of these dopes aren’t going to pass. Oh, well.” Who, in the name of all that’s holy, would want to teach like that? Here is the simple beauty of teaching riders:
They all learn. Every. Single. Damn. One.
The philosophy of the folks in motorcycling is that everybody learns. You may not make standard but that’s OK. The true test is inside you. Did you learn? Did you improve? Are you better for being in the class? I’ve never seen anyone–AT ALL–every say, “I didn’t learn anything”. What a blessing to work in that environment, a place where you don’t throw out the sub-par you work to bring it up to par.
I teach High School, and yes, some of teachers give up on kids; often before they even meet them. Children are viewed as raw material and often discarded. I sorry for that. It just is.
I pray that never reaches into the Rider Education world.