Teaching How to Teach

“This thing is driving me crazy!  It’s not doing what I want it to do.  It’s NOT WORKING!  Why don’t they make things that WORK?????   The “### thing!”

“Give it to me and I’ll fix it for you.”  The youth picks up the phone/computer/iPad/ wiggles his thumbs over it.  “There!  It’s all right now.”

The owner leaves with a fixed “thing”, none the wiser on how it was done.  When it misbehaves again, back it goes to the youth. 

Our brains are amazingly flexible, but they are stunted in development by negative attitudes.  SeIf-pity and giving-up are unaffordable luxuries these days. 

Long, long ago, in the training sessions before I went abroad, we were taught a language we wouldn’t encounter in the country to which we were going.  We were introduced to the process of learning. “For some of you,” said the director, “you may have to teach your language teacher how to teach you.”

Languages, computers, technology, driving a car – all the information must be massaged into manageable steps for the learner-brain.  For those who are experience-rich but are still learning how to learn, here are a few hints in teaching how to teach – lessons I had to learn all over again recently: 

  • Remove from your thoughts all previous explosive epithets inflicted on said item.
  • Tell the potential teacher exactly what you want to know.
  • Don’t be ashamed of ignorance.  Ask and ask again.
  • If they repeat the same words in a louder voice, ask, “could you explain using different words?”
  • Say, “let me explain it back to you:  first I…. then I …..   This gives a clue to the troubling area.
  • Practice it again and again in front of them.  Tell them not to help you until you ask. . 

Record it in your own favourite way.  Mine is to write it down

Be a sleuth for good teachers.

Some people, even from a young age, know how to explain something by starting where you are, and breaking it down step by step.  Praise them, going into detail about how and why their explanations were helpful.

When you have learned what you wanted to know, you can say the words they will hate to hear:  “you would make a good teacher”.  Then they will snort in derision.  And then they will go out into the world and try jobs they don’t like until eventually, they’ll end up teaching others.  And, if the Government doesn’t interfere too much, they will love and be loved, and learners/trainees will go away with lifetime memories of affection and their own self confidence. 

I know.  I did. 

Shaker Hand Pies

The Shakers were a celibate pacifist community, in the nineteenth century, one of the most durable American Utopian societies.  Their many inventions included the circular saw, the rotary harrow, the clothespin, furniture that influenced Danish modern design, metal pens, planing machinery, the ladder-backed chair, the wheel-driven washing machine, the threshing machine, packaging and seed storing, and the flat broom …….besides being excellent cooks. 

So when I was given bags of apples, a kilo of them happily sank into the slow cooker and turned into beautiful applesauce, ready to use on an untried recipe – this time from my Shaker cookbook.  For those of you who make English mince pies, these hand pies will not be strange.  They are perfect for travel, lunch boxes, and, like the Shakers, picnics.

First, using your favourite pastry recipe, make up enough for a two-crust pie.  I use half plain, and half self-raising flour.  If pastry is not your “thang”, just buy some.  Roll it thin enough to hold its shape without the metal comfort of pie pans. 

Cut an even number of pastry rounds –4 – 5 inches (10 – 11 cm), or smaller.  On half of them put a tablespoon of sweetened applesauce seasoned with nutmeg (or cinnamon? Or a bit of ginger?). Scatter a few raisins.  Wet the edges with water.  On the other half of the rounds, make a breathing hole or cross in the middle.  Cover the saucy rounds and seal firmly.

Bake at 400 degrees (around 200 Centigrade) for about 20 minutes. 

Voila!  That’s all there is to it. 

My experience

A two-crust pastry recipe made 3 large (cut with a crumpet ring), 5 medium, and 1 teensy-weensy pie.

I added the hole on top – Shakers didn’t.  It wasn’t needed.

It can take more filling than I gave it — the wet seal is fine.

The dough is fragile when raw, but bakes up nice and crispy.

Applesauce and pie crust — a tasty combination. Probably even better with cream!

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