Image from Phillip Tanzilo's website.

“Doc, my head hurts.” Image from Phillip Tanzilo’s website.

My favourite readings in this course have revolved around a teacher’s role in helping students develop a metacognitive approach to their studies. My main approach to teaching has been based upon tried-and-true methodologies and classroom interactions; this course has illuminated a host of philosophical approaches — and thus differing perspectives about roles in teaching.

Last year I contracted a personal trainer. Since turning 40, I had exercised a handful of times; I felt fat, slow, and at a loss to explain how I’d gotten that way. I set a goal: to set a record and get into the Guinness Book of World Records. It involved standing in one place for 30 hours, so I went in search of help. This would be much easier with a little more core strength and a little less core fat.The trainer worked me hard, but fairly, and she spent much of our hour together explaining why we were doing the things we did.

After two sessions, she told me flatly that we only had ten more appointments left.

“Why do you say that?” I asked, as there were still months left before the record attempt.

“My job is not to carry you to the finish line, Jason,” the trainer said. “I’m going to teach you how to train yourself, then you’re on your own.”

Not only did this trainer deliver the service she was contracted for — to challenge me within that hour — she took it upon herself to give the tools to move beyond her instruction. In her words, “If you still need me six months from now, either your needs and goals have changed dramatically or I haven’t done my job.”

This mirrored my own words to students; I’d often told them that their responsibility was not to me, but to themselves — that they were not writing to practice for a test, but taking the test to practice writing for life. I had long been surprised by many a student’s puzzlement, but I found myself aghast that I’d be abandoned by my trainer so long before the event.

A year later, I not only have a world record to my name, but I’ve also lost twelve kilograms and now run four times a week in preparation for my first half-marathon. My health is better, my diet is improved, and my mood is (except when challenged by mystifying inane governmental policy changes) brighter. All stem from 12 one-hour classes with a trainer 15 years my junior who taught this man to fish. I hope those students who buy into my approach have similarly positive long-term results.

All the philosophies discussed in this course have merit from my point of view. As I continue through this program, and this career, I will attempt to wrestle my collection of beliefs and go-to exercises into a definable philosophy of teaching. But for now, I will fold all that I have read into my existing belief that I am more coach than professor. I encourage my students to view both their successes and failures, and to learn from them both. I observe their performance, and offer advice about how to improve. Whether students achieve very little or a great deal, I challenge them to strive for more. I ask them to visualize success. And I hope and pray that they will, sooner than later, have no need for my help to reach their goals.


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