Thursday, June 02, 2011

Here Be Dragons

This is probably my last post on The Student Whisperer. I plan to go through the exercises in the second half, but I won't blog about them. Before leaving this book (blog-wise, at least), here are two final ideas I appreciated:

Students go through phases.

I won’t give details on the graph she uses to show the differing needs of students. (Buy the book!) But students’ needs change. Also, a particular student may cycle through phases, go through them out of order, and go through a phase more than once. This is important to remember. People are quirky. We aren't machines. We don't necessarily follow a straight line of development. Sometimes we need what my friend, Javamom, calls “space and grace”. Sometimes we need help structuring our work. Sometimes we need to hear a hard truth. Great teachers are sensitive to the changing needs of their students.

There are mountains to climb.

Learning can be delightful, but it can also be difficult. I sometimes forget this because didn’t Miss Mason say, “Studies serve for delight”? (Well, it was actually Sir Francis Bacon, but she quoted him.) If we aren’t constantly delighted, maybe we are doing it wrong… But I don't think so. We get inspired. We are delighted. We become hungry for mind-food. However, it isn’t necessarily easy to digest. Ms. Earle talks about a time in a student’s life after the novelty wears off and the work begins. The student still wants to learn, but it is definitely hard work, and sometimes he may think about giving up. I have seen my kids go through this. Sometimes a break is in order. Sometimes we need to seek out additional help. Sometimes the student just needs to push through. At times like these, I stock up on chocolate and I-love-you stickers. ;o) We pray. Also, we talk about the process. We try to discern the roadblock and get over or around it. This poem sometimes helps:

Above all, trust in the slow work of God.

We are quite naturally impatient in everything
to reach the end without delay.

We should like to skip the intermediate stages.

We are impatient of being on the way
to something unknown,
something new.

Yet it is the law of all progress that is made
by passing through some stages of instability
and that may take a very long time.

And so I think it is with you.

Your ideas mature gradually. Let them grow.

Let them shape themselves without undue haste.

Do not try to force them on
as though you could be today what time
-- that is to say, grace --
and circumstances
acting on your own good will
will make you tomorrow.

Only God could say what this new Spirit
gradually forming in you will be.

Give our Lord the benefit of believing
that his hand is leading you,
and accept the anxiety of feeling yourself
in suspense and incomplete.

Above all, trust in the slow work of God,
our loving vine-dresser.


-- Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

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