You should just ask…

You should just ask…


In my 16 years of teaching across three continents, I am always finding new challenges in this career.  My first year out of university, walking into a classroom was a daunting experience, just the sheer rude awakening of being 100% responsible to contribute towards sculpting young minds into sane, efficient and mature personalities. I always said to myself, things will get easier when I get a few years of experience under my belt. Well, I would like to say some challenges became a lot easier as time passed and I got to realise a lot more about my career. Apart from realising that all these young people in front of me were looking up to me for experience, I also got to appreciate that I wasn’t the smartest person in any of my classrooms. Truth be told, I strongly believe that most if not all of my students could be smarter than me. While it may sound embarrassing to others I found it interesting because I realised my role was not to decant knowledge into these young minds’ head but to get them to facilitate and guide them through a journey of discovery. I have made this my opening statement each time I introduce myself to a new class. “Good morning/afternoon class my name is Mr Mahlangove I am your coach”. Usually I get remarks such as “I thought you were a teacher”. I then go on to explain some facts that I find most of my students being super intelligent tend to concur with me easily. I ask questions to redirect their thinking, usually related to show business questions because most young people are into sports or celebrities and artists.

The general consensus we usually get to is, people who are in charge of directing proceeding for great sports people, celebrities or artists are not as talented as the people they are directing and teaching is not any different. The only probable difference between a teacher and the students in a classroom is the fact that the teacher has had exposure to the content several times and has the bigger picture, which in no shape, form or way concrete evidence of intelligence. So teachers are coaches. The words coach originates from a vehicle for transporting goods, my role as a teacher is to help students from where they are now to where they want to be in the future.

Unlike goods that do not have a say, students have a word when it comes to what they learn. If you have been patient enough to read this blog and you are a student, here is my word of advice, please ASK questions to your teacher. I have had students admit that sometimes they are so confused that they do not even know what and how to ask. The best description I have had of this dilemma is “Sir I feel like an Englishman in a chinese restaurant, hungry but I have a menu written in mandarin”. Here is the thing, all learning goes through stages. Usually if you express this to your to teacher they would know how to diagnose the source of your challenge.

Unconscious incompetence--- big words right, this just means you are doing things wrong and you do not even know it’s wrong. Common word I hear teens I teach use is “Naïve”. This can be compared to a baby picking up anything and putting it in their mouth. We all go through this phase every now and again.

Conscious incompetence: We know what is right but we can’t just do it correctly, either out of choice or erroneously.

Conscious competence : This is when we have to carefully think about what we are doing and or follow a set of instructions in order  to get things right. Remember when you started riding a bicycle or drive a car. You had to think through what you are doing to get things right.

Unconscious Competence : This is when everything becomes second nature, you can do tasks without thinking about what you are doing. Sometimes you even ask yourself “did I stop at that set of traffic lights at the junction of Peet St and Corner Ave”.

The secret is to understand where you are on the phases. Stage 1 and 2 you are going to need a lot of assistance from your teacher but if you are at stage 3, you need to start working independently going back to ask for help from your teacher every now and again. Stage 4 requires you to revisit the content every once in a while to refresh your memory.

Next I will focus on how to ask questions…

Happy Learning

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