Monday, August 20, 2012

Theory, demonstration, and empathy in teaching

Yesterday I took a group of kids skateboarding. One of them requested help learning kickflips which he'd been attempting for some time. Initially, I taught him all the trick tips that I'd been taught and found useful when learning the trick. This helped him significantly, but he was still far from landing on his board. Normally, I'd combine the theory with a demonstration of the trick and oscillate between the two so that they complement each other: the former speaking to the intellect, the latter, to the visio-spatial brain. However, my knee injury rendered this approach unfeasible.  

Frustrated somewhat, I intuitively stood behind him and projected 'myself' onto his board, into his shoes, and into his body and imagined myself performing kickflips using his body as I'd normally use mine. I then asked him to attempt to kickflip and tried to imitated him, not only with my mind but - as best as I can put it - with my 'astral body', the part of the psyche that's like a spiritual counterpart of the body. The part that wills, imagines, and controls the body, just before the body is affected. The part that allows you to perform an action invisible to all but yourself, but that could easily translate into real action with only the slightest assertion of will.  

In this way, his sequence of movements appeared on the backdrop of my own, and the differences between them became strikingly vivid to me. Owing this empathic sense, I managed to  give him insights into the adjustments he must make in order to land the trick, tips that I'd never come across on 'trick tip' videos and the like. Furthermore, I felt as though I could tangibly 'lift' his skating actions - using my 'astral body' - to my level of performance. Amazingly, after just a few tries he landed on his board, and did so again three consecutive times.

I'm sure that I learnt remarkably more than he did from that interaction: He learnt how to kickflip; I learnt that explanation, even when coupled with demonstration, is a mediocre way to teach. Only through empathy can one teach in a way that's tailor-made for the recipient...

1 comment:

  1. B'H

    That is the only way to teach. When you project your prejudices and fears onto others, you close the gates of perception. You must go past the outer shells of the students to the inner beings and reach them on a level of understanding that is G-Dly. You have just learnt how to really teach and learn at the same time. :-) Good...
    "I learnt that explanation, even when coupled with demonstration, is a mediocre way to teach. Only through empathy can one teach in a way that's tailor-made for the recipient..." But please put an 's' on the end of the recipient.
    The best learning takes place with doing. The less talk the better. You can connect with students on a level that is beyond speech in many instances. Talk is cheap.