The other day as I was helping transport twenty students across San Francisco for a field trip via public transit I sat and watched an experienced driver show a new driver the ropes. “No need to rush. Safety is always the most important,” he said as we pulled up to a roundabout. “Which turn do we take from here?” he asked the new driver.
I smiled, thinking about how this man was a teacher and mentor for this new driver. He was supportive and patient. He asked questions and held on to answers only for the moments they were truly needed. It reminded me a lot about how I traditionally think of teaching and learning within a classroom and the walls of school. I smiled because I love education and it was a simple reminder that eduction is everywhere. Everyone is part of the education system because we continuously teach one another and learn from one another in a variety of different ways.
That night, I came home to view some snaps from my girlfriend who challenged herself that day by attending an event put on by her school club: the claybusters. The claybusters are a high-school club that promotes recreational clay shooting (among other things, I’m sure). I’m always amazed at how open she is to try new things. She had never done it before and isn’t really a big fan of shooting in general, but she went because she loves her school, her students, and values being part of the community in as many ways as possible.
At the beginning she did not like it. She had 30 shots and was ready to give up after ten. When we talked it sounded like she was holding the gun wrong, not hitting any clays, and the overall experience wasn’t a good one. Then she told me how the instructors were patient with her, but challenged her to keep going. They taught her how to hold the gun, how to breathe. Ten more shots and there wasn’t much improvement. They supported her after every shot, showing her how to tilt her head, how to follow the clay. The last ten, she hit eight out of ten, and she even said she would be open to shooting again in the future.
The instructors here modeled something that classroom teachers should always strive for: pushing students past what they think they can handle, consistent and unwavering support, and an understanding that students come with different abilities and desires to learn in the first place.
The final example came today in the grocery store as I passed a chatty two year old (I think?) and his father. The child was asking questions and the dad was very focused on shopping. “Do we need an apple?” said the child. “That’s a red bell pepper,” the dad replied. This simple interaction reminded me of the amazing teaching and learning that occurs by parents and their children. The dad was not focused on teaching in the moment but was a teacher. How often and what do you and I and the people around us teach each other?
There are a million examples of teaching outside of schools and even outside of traditional structures devoted to teaching and learning. If you stop and take a look around at an average day, I’m sure you’ll find them too. If you feel like teaching me about where you see some of this please comment below and let me know what you’ve found!