Thursday, January 12, 2006

Teaching and Learning

I do a lot of teaching-my students are primarily law enforcement officers and fellow prosecutors. I got into it about eight years ago and have been fortunate to keep being invited back. I enjoy it a great deal-my motivation is to try and be totally unlike all the crappy teachers and tedious lecturers I suffered through in school at all levels, especially law school. I figured out early on in law school (actually it was more of just a sad realization than any effort on my part) , that the reason most of these people taught,(there were exceptions), was because if they hung out a shingle and tried to practice they would quickly need food stamp applications. It seemed their entire mission was to prove to the class that they knew more about the subject than any of us-hell, I would have stipulated that if it would have moved the ball forward any. They seemed quite amused with playing a game of "keep-away" with the information instead of finding the best way to implant the concepts in our mushy brains. The revered Socratic method was completely bastardized into a bullying session which was only humorous if you weren't the object of ridicule. They only played these little games with us during first year because by the end of that term you can easily call bullshit. They were probably also afraid that being wise to their games we would turn the tables on them and they would be exposed as the frauds a lot of them were. How's this for sheer gall: I will not mention the school, (it is my alma mater) ,where the person who is the head of the trial advocacy program and is the author of two books on trial advocacy, has never once tried a jury case! (Me?-I'm thinking about penning a learned treatise on how to dunk a basketball). I also had one professor who eschewed the revered anonymous grading system and once that secret came out, just before exams he was showered with golf balls and assorted gifts that prominently displayed the donor's name and somehow those lucky folks made test scores in the mid to high 90's although usually any grade above 85 was considerd outstanding. I did not participate on principle and I almost flunked even though the course was so easy I could visit the state zoo and successfully impart the concepts to alpacas in less than a day.
In fifth grade, our math teacher fell ill during the first week and was replaced for the whole year by a semi-warm body they culled from one of the local nursing homes and this fool set me back forever in math-forever. I still steam over this today. If I am faced with a math-based theoretical concept, I can intuit like hell and figure it out-if you present me with a page of numbers, I just shut down-it might as well be the Iliad in Greek.
Several times I have been asked to be on the teaching faculty for a weeklong course where the object is to teach prosecutors how to successfully teach other prosecutors. It involves complex principles of adult learning and a lot of it initially is determining the learning styles of both teachers and adult learners in order to maximize the transfer of information. I have been asked to teach a section on "Brain Quadrants" and in preparing I dug out my copy of a book by David Keirsey, called "Please Understand Me, II-Temperament, Character and Intelligence. I won't bore you with the details but it contains a short quiz, the Keirsey Temperament Sorter II, which after completion, reveals your personality type and places you in one of 16 categories. The book them proceeds to explore the details and the strengths and weaknesses of all 16 temperaments. I am characterized as I-N-T-P, those four letters standing for "Introverted," "Intuitive," "Thinking," and Perceiving," skewed most heavily toward the "Thinking" and "Intuitive" categories. The discussion of this personality type is both revealing and confirming and is quite accurate both in describing my temperament and personality. There are to all types various strengths which are reaffirming but also weaknesses, which are also enlightening.
I'll try to explore and explain this more next week as a way to prepare for teaching it week after next-get the book if you are interested. Personally I find introspection quite fascinating. It also helps explain why we gravitate to or are find repugnant and foreign certain other personality types.

Got a long weekend coming up-trip to South Carolina and a re-visit to Harold's Country Club in Yemassee for a big reaffirming dose of my redneck heritage-Double-deuce Budweisers in brown bags, thick, marbled steaks and country karoake. Back Monday-Happy Martin Luther King Day to all!


Anonymous Allan said...

I suffered 4 years of abuse at the hands of dentistry professors. There were a few good guys, but most were right bastards.

They thought they were toughening us up to face the real world. Like Marine Corp drill instructors or something.

I was glad to know the few good guys, and have never forgotten them.

9:15 AM  

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