Monday, 26 November 2012

Patience with Beginners

Yesterday I realized that I had pounded up a small dried Indian coconut with sugar for no reason. I also had three egg whites left over after making nog. So I decided to see what would happen if I put the coconut with whipped egg whites and rice flour for some macaroons. They're nice. For some strange reason I tried whisking with my left hand. Know what? It's impossible. That arm has absolutely no muscle memory of having ever done this. And then I took out a knife and tried to cut a carrot into batons. Know what? My left hand is a complete beginner. And I'm starting to really empathise when someone, like my younger son, who tells me, he actually CANT make his own pancakes. Things I take for granted like swirling the pan with butter, pouring batter, flipping pancakes, are simply not things he can do yet, physically. And I assume there are probably many people much like him.

It also occured to me that this is exactly like writing. Some of my students can organize ingredients, put them in good order, and even flip them with a solid thesis. Some have never been asked to write a research paper yet in their lives. They are absolute beginners. And I understand why now. No one assigned a real paper. No one threw them in the kitchen and said, cook. Doesn't matter what happens. Start. Then do it again. And again. Eventually you will know how to write. Or cook. Same thing. Or anything. It's not something you can teach except for encouraging people to do it. I'm beginning to feel better about cookbooks with no directions, and my sophmore history seminar where I have basically just let the students loose and am making them write a full length 6,000 word paper. Like anything, simply doing it makes it possible.

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