Sunday, 19 October 2014


I love teaching. I love watching people learn and I enjoy the classroom interaction (between student and student, and between teacher and student).

My regular readers will know that I'm an admirer of Lev Vygotsky. I try and apply his psychological insights into my classroom, and try and mix covering the subject matter, exegeses of text, input from the students, and providing couching.

These are adult students so I don't have to pretend anything. When I make a mistake the whole class including me laugh about it. Being open and honest as a matter of course provides the students to not only share with the group without having to feel self-conscious but also provides room to apply their own knowledge in a safe environment. I'm naturally a lover of ideas but I try and make the basic principles of discourse alive while cognizant of the fact that learning is not based on a schedule but is a currency of social interaction.

When one approach is losing the students I try another approach. My analogue of knowledge is not a castle with many rooms but rather a landscape with land marks. These land marks are based on geology (principles and theoretical frameworks) and built up on ideas (the biomass that has the capacity to evolve and even generate original insights).

In this particular case of teaching medical terminology/interpreting, the anatomy and physiology are the geological foundations that scaffold the basic coordinate system which in turn holds the key to latin- and greek- taxonomic principles of medical terms and concepts. The major land marks comprise the skeletal mountain over there, the circulatory hills between muscles and organs, etc.

Granted, the analogy is a bit stretched but it's the organizing principles that act as a mnemonic device where one concept supports another which in turn supports another concept. One memory links up to another memory and the overview informs the learner. Ever the linguist, I try and take every opportunity to point out certain recurring patterns in medical terminology and what the prefixes, roots and suffixes refer to. When the linkages are made by the students themselves with terms in common usage a whole new world is opened up.

Though I try and not underplay the Inuit Language terminology (which, to me, is utterly important), I know that acquiring the skills to unlock and decipher the source scientific concepts reinforces the Inuit Language skills and the students' ability to describe and explain them to themselves and others. The English language is on equal footing with the Inuit Language.

In my line of work I have that fortunate but rare luxury of being able to discourse in one language and when that doesn't seem to be working to revert to another language 'til the students find their bearings again. This approach actually works, and it works beautifully.

The whole point of learning to me is to demystify knowledge and re-enchant the world with informed creativity and wonder. The power to surprise and delight is unlocked. Human dignity is reclaimed.


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