For some reason that “one teacher” quote from Saturday has been sticking in my brain, and I’ve been thinking a lot about what I learned from those three influential classroom teachers I had growing up. Not much of what I remember has anything to do with content. I mean I remember some of the assignments and exercises, sure. But what I remember most, and the reason they’re still with me today, was their passion for learning, their willingness to go beyond the text or topic, their senses of humor. They were the smartest three teachers I had, not so much in what they knew about their subjects but in what they knew about learning. They were always talking about things they’d read, and about how those ideas had relevance in their lives. They were sincerely interested in what I had to say, to make sure I was “getting it,” no doubt, but also because they seemed to want to understand their own learning more deeply. They would challenge me, but even more, I got the sense they wanted to be challenged back. As opposed to the worst teachers I can remember, the ones who knew everything and knew exactly what they wanted us to know, these teachers consistently modeled learning, not teaching.
Just a quick story that I think has some relevance to this discussion. Yesterday, we watched some surfers off of Pebble Beach try navigate these huge, foggy, foamy, cold waves that were pounding a rocky shoreline. I was trying to catch some of it on video when a guy drove up and jumped out of his car, zipping up his fleece, ooohhhing and ahhhing at the scene. He walked up beside me and said, “Have you seen any macs?” I just looked at him and kind of sheepishly said, “I have no idea what that means.” We both chuckled. “Really big waves,” he said. “Mac daddies.” Oh. He was a surfer, had lived in these parts all of his life. And for the next 20 minutes, he gave me the most arm-flailing, knee-bending, face-contorting lesson in surfing and waves and weather that you could ever imagine. I was mesmerized, asking every stupid question I could think of, getting understandable answers (and usually demonstrations) to each one. But all the while, he was watching the surf, the surfers, the skies, and you could tell that he was adding bits and pieces of it to his own database. We were both learning.
And isn’t this how most of us learn? From the experience, the conversation, the doing?