Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Birthday Post

Happy Birthday, To Me!!

I'll admit it, I've hit 65. That means Medicare. I was already collecting Social Security, so no biggie there.

Medicare, though. I am supremely lucky to still have my Blue Cross/Horizon as secondary insurance to pick up any expenses Medicare will not pay.

But already the Medicare stuff is strange. I had to fill out some forms at the chiropractor. They were pain assessment things and they made no sense whatsoever. I am an English teacher and, frankly, I read the language very well. I could not make heads or tails of what they wanted on these forms. Vague directions, irrelevant examples, and no explanations.

Times like this, I think I could make a fortune hiring myself out to simply write directions for people to follow.  If I was vague or too indirect with my students when I gave assignments, I could get all kinds of strange work from them. Writing clear, concise and good directions is an important teaching skill.

Think of riding instructors you have had in the past--or even now. Their ability to communicate complex concepts makes all the difference in the world to you as a student. What do you do with your body, your weight, your hands, your eyes, your legs, your seat, and every nuance of how to ride even a simple exercise somehow must come across by words alone. Sure, they can demonstrate, they can hold you by the hand or physically correct your seat, but in the end, you and your horse will have to do it on your own.

I always remember Lockie Richards explaining something and always adding, "Feel it? Feel it? Do you feel it?"  He knew it wasn't just a matter of mechanics, but a matter of feeling the results of the mechanics so you could recreate the results on your own. By expecting that, I might often discover an alternate way of getting the horse to respond, since my goal was not a method, but a consequence.

Hope that makes some kind of sense.

But too many people are not teachers, yet they think they can give directions. I have been looking at some of the Common Core educational materials over the last few months, and I see the problem cropping up there. Common Core is proven a money maker for many for profit corporations. They create all kinds of educational materials they claim teach the Common Core skills to students in all kinds of fancy commercial packages. They sell these to schools who are desperate to try to keep up with government requirements for educational standards.

The result? Poorly conceived assignments and badly written instructions. I've seen them.

Most teachers I have known in my own educational career are more than capable of teaching students what they need to know and leading them along the path of good learning. What they need is the freedom and support to teach, not someone looking over their shoulders all the time with a checklist.

Picture your riding teacher again. Your horse misbehaves or misinterprets the cues you give him. Teacher has a set of rulebooks to follow...a preset curriculum that must be mastered in order, in a certain way with no creative methods.  Will it work? Maybe, maybe not. But in the meantime wouldn't you rather have a teacher who could come up with a good solution on the spot before you're bucked off, run away with, or simply frustrated to tears?

Thanks for indulging me. After all, it is my birthday!!


  1. Happy birthday Jean!!!!!!
    And you are onto something. Someone needs to write a book on how to negotiate through Blue Cross stuff alone. Years ago when I had a big accident, I went through every battle that existed because either they TRIED to scam me, or they had people working for them who had no idea what they were doing. By keeping after it, I probably saved several thousand dollars they tried to erroneously charge me. I'm sure medicare can't be any smoother. Maybe you could hire yourself out as a consultant for people who don't understand it - if you don't want to write a book that is!
    - The Equestrian Vagabond

  2. A very happy birthday!

  3. Happy Birthday! Hope you're having a fun filled day with no pain and getting around better.

    You make a lot of good points. Somebody should demystify ridiculous forms so average people can maneuver through them.

  4. A well written post! When I was in England I saw a lot of GCSE tests, the past ones that they make available for students to help prepare them for their tests. And boy oh boy did I see a lot of poorly written questions, which an educated person would not be able to really understand the question. I see the same thing here - though I don't see as many tests. Sometimes I think I know what they mean but they sure didn't say it!

    So, yes, I think you should offer your writing talents somewhere, somehow. Really!
    The world needs it.

    Happy 65th! We just went to a party last night for a very good friend of ours turning 65 years young!

  5. Happy Birthday! and a big YES on the importance of clear instructions. How about a riding instructor who repeats the same instruction over and over, in the same words, when it's obvious the rider isn't understanding what they mean? Teaching can be as much about asking questions, to confirm comprehension.

  6. i entirely agree with you!

    teachers over here are too tied down by silly directions and no one is taught properly or learns to understand....

    as for GCSE's .... hah.

  7. and today i was looking at some homework given to a 9 year old... well above what we were expected to do at his age! one of the questions you could have expected in English Literature (a subject i hated!) at A Level (don't know US equivalent, sorry)! i would barely expect him to understand the language in the question, let alone come up with a sensible answer...