Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Prescription against Proscription

Continuing with the theme of how we learn...what's the role of the teacher, the role of the student. I think I'd like to see those boundaries get a bit more mixed up. I don't think the person in front of the room is all-knowing nor should we expect that of him/her--teachers are human beings, just like everyone else, with a bit more experience in a specific area.

I chafe against rigid heirarchies. I think they're stupid and are designed to protect power more than anything else. They are certainly not in the best interest of people at the bottom of the heirarchy, despite what the people at the top say. But, I'm not an anarchist, either. I think plenty of
things need to happen in a certain order to function well and I think some rules are very useful. Maybe it's the rigid that I have a problem with.

I think it is very brave to acknowledge ambiguity. It requires a sense of security and centered-ness that is tricky to achieve, tricky to maintain. But, once you are okay with it, the world gets a whole lot more interesting. There are a lot of nooks and crannies to discover once you
can sit with uncertainty.

What does this have to do with the teacher-student relationship? Well, again, not a big fan of heirarchy. I want my teachers to be knowledgeable and have a deep understanding of the subject at hand. But I appreciate a teacher who knows there is always more to learn and encourages his/her students to go deeper on their own. Some one who knows rules are made to be broken and that the answer is often "maybe. The best discoveries are usually made by some one who doesn't know any better and doesn't accept the boundaries set by experts. Gets out of the box.

Maybe what I'm saying is that the true guru is inside you. A good teacher helps you discover that, but the realization is your own.

Learn to sit with uncertainty.
Do not follow me, I may not lead. (Maybe the other true guru is 70s posters)

Wednesday, March 16, 2011


More on the confluence of yoga and mathematics from my calculus professor:

"My image of you (all) is infinitely good...it doesn't matter what you subtract, it is still good. Since it is infinite, you can subtract 10,000, or whatever, from it and it is still infinitely good. That is what infinite means."

How's that for ego-less teaching?

Friday, March 11, 2011

How I Spent my Vacation...

Spring Break. So I broke a little, but E and A made sure I didn't take it too easy. Ah, the life of a non-traditional student.

One thing I did do, was work on my Education project: a 10-hr. observation of an educational setting. I am fascinated by project-based learning and how it is used to create an entire curriculum in a classroom where the students make most of the choices about what they learn. It's not as loosey-goosey as it sounds, and there's a whole rubric set up to help students select projects and define the way they are investigated. There's a charter school in Beloit, that is part of the public school system but is entirely project-based and I spent Monday seeing how it all works.

It was so interesting to watch the kids and think about my own prejudices about how school should run. What was remarkable was how engaged the students were and how sophisticated their projects--and their descriptions of these projects--were. Everyone one I sat down with could pull up research they'd used (not just wikipedia) and could describe how they were turning this research into a final project--short story, 1/4" scale model, song, concert. For the quantifiers in the audience, the test scores are the same or a bit higher than the kids in the regular middle and high school (partially due to all the reading) and almost all graduates go on to college. So why not let the kids call the shots--within reason?

There seem to be some weak areas (math, science), but on the whole I couldn't really see how this form of learning would be less effective than a teacher-centered, lecture-based approach. And I could see how it would be a lot more appealing.

So, re. yoga. It seems like we're stuck in a very teacher-based form of instruction, and I'm not sure that such a good thing either. Very traditional. Very susceptible to ego trips and misinformation.

Of course, you have to learn how and probably some why at first. A sensible framework to organize the information is good, too. But the endless celebration of this guru and that superstar, and this brand and that patented technique gets awfully far from the whole point of this practice, which is to unite within oneself. Isn't it?

One thing an advisor (not "teacher") at the charter school told me, was that kids who want to be told what to do and simply perform to get a grade never last very long at the school. They can't handle the freedom and the responsibility. Which is fine, some people can't. But I wonder if that's the case with so much of the yoga teaching in the West--people want some one to boss them around and grade their asana. Anyone who finds that model confining and paternalistic is seen as suspect--all this "us vs them" that seems to be such a desired dichotomy to establish.

Carol H. keeps writing about Yoga 2.0 and I think it has potential to move us away from this more traditional way of thinking about instruction. I don't really mean that a yoga class will become project-based, but maybe in terms of the discipline becoming less dependent on master teachers and all that. Stop grading (or *sigh* awarding olympic medals) and start investigating.

I dunno, is that too radical?

...surf's up!