Monday, August 18, 2014

Thirteen sets of Rules

My wife and I took exactly one course together in college; algebra.  It was a disaster.  We both ended up getting A’s in the course, but studying together was torture for us.  You see, I’m a very visual thinker and so I approached every assignment with a picture to understand the problem.

My wife is extremely bright, but cannot envision a right angle even if she is looking at a folded napkin.  Diagrams are her kryptonite. She thinks in numbers and formulas and can effortlessly compute algebraic equations like a Cray-2.  She can add and subtract calendar dates as easily as you or I count spare tires.  In my car, I have approximately one. 

We both performed well in the course, but approached our joint study sessions like Star Fleet cadets on a First Contact mission.  Each was an exercise in xenolinguistics - and while I won’t say which one of us is indigenous to planet Earth, I believe her powers are enhanced in the presence of a yellow sun.

Now imagine if our teacher expected us to think, act, or respond in the exact same way.  Our society often presents the view that fairness, equality, opportunity, and symmetry are synonymous.  I do not share that view - and my perspective on this matter is incorporated into my teaching.

In 1979 the Pittsburgh Pirates, under the management of Chuck Tanner, won the World Series.  Tanner had players such as Omar Moreno, Dave Parker, Willie Stargell, Phil Garner, and Bert Blyleven.

When asked about his formula for success, Coach Tanner said, “I have 13 players and 13 sets of rules.”  This is a very enlightened view of humanity, achievement, teaching, and leadership.  If Tanner had treated his players like cookie-dough, using the same cutter to motivate, lead, and reward each of his players, they could not have achieved as they did.

Students in a Do Jang (training hall) are individuals, each on a personal journey.  Each has gifts, obstacles, desires, motivations, and demons unique to themselves.  Instructors should treat them fairly, which is to say uniquely according to the student’s individual attributes, capabilities, and challenges. 

Students, likewise should not compare their individual progress / journeys with other students as that is being unfair to either themselves or their classmates.  If I were expected to manipulate formulas in my mind, as my wife does, I would surely be considered a math failure, when in reality I have had a long (25+ years) successful career in Information Technology - a math dominated industry.

It is not wrong for teachers or students to have standards or goals, and to expect those standards / goals to be met - but we must always consider the individual when evaluating progress, establishing expectations, and developing motivating strategies.

1 comment:

  1. I totally agree, we tend to cut everything with the same knife. we cant.. we have to treat individuals with unique approaches.

    great post


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