Thanks to Apple’s ADE program and the Canadian International School of Hong Kong, over the past two weeks I have had the great luxury of being a student. I find that no amount of teacher training is better than the experience I get being on the other side. While at the ADE institute I got to experience the collaborative aspect of being a student. I was reminded of what it’s like to be asked to work with people you don’t know and may have little in common with. I was reminded of how important it is to listen to others and go with ideas that may not at first seem appealing. But I love to collaborate. Collaborative learning and teaching for me is fun, enriching, validating and really quite comfortable- it’s what I’m good at. I had an absolutely amazing five days of learning and growing with my ADE colleagues. What I’m doing now, though, learning a new scary sport that requires time, patience, and lots and lots of practice is the kind of learning that takes me far beyond my comfort zone.
While many of my new friends have returned to their classrooms, I am now enjoying spring break on the beaches of Mui Ne. Earlier this year I took a holiday to Boracay and on a whim signed up for kitesurfing lessons. It had been quite a while since I had tried something so new and things did not go well from the start. I discovered that because of my intense fear of the kite and dislike for the wind I was going nowhere fast with my learning. My instructor wasn’t helping; he was incredibly impatient with me and often times mean. At one point he even said, “You don’t need kitesurfing lessons, you need a psychologist!” In between sessions I would go back to my hotel, curl up in the fetal position and cry. No joke. I had to muster all the strength I had to go back to the beach and get in the water. If it weren’t for my sheer stubbornness and determination to finish things I’ve started I’d have quickly given up. Learning was scary and not at all fun.
I spent three days on the beach in Boracay, frozen up, afraid to make a wrong move (which I did a lot) lest I get yelled at and mocked. Did I learn anything? I think you can guess that answer to that. I tell you all of this to get to the actual point of this post, something I think of nearly every time I am put back into the seat of the student: It’s not about how much I know, or how good I am at doing something that makes me an effective teacher. Rather it’s how much patience, tolerance, kindness, and love that I have to give to my students. Learning is hard. It takes commitment, time, effort, and work. It’s scary. My job as a teacher is to offer encouragement and guidance. By creating a warm, safe environment I create a positive space for learning.
I now have a beautifully kind and patient teacher, who was the inspiration for this post. My first day here I spent two hours with him in the water, trying again and again to get up and ride with no success. His response? “Relax, no problem, take your time, take it easy.” I crashed the kite, couldn’t get it back up, left the $500 board out in the water while I got dragged to shore and when I arrived full of apology he greeted me with, “No problem. You’re learning. Good for me, good for you”. He has created that space for me that I strive to create for my students- a space where it’s okay to fail, it’s okay to take an eternity to get it, a space where it’s okay to learn.
Some days I’m tired and grumpy and I just don’t have that bottomless well of patience, tolerance, kindness and love for my students. It’s on those days that I hope to come back to this experience of learning something incredibly difficult for me, remember the frustration and fear I’ve had and how close I’ve been to giving up, and think of how powerful the patience of a teacher can be.
Wind’s up… Time to set up the kite & get out on the water!