If you are like me, seemingly inconsequential events repeatedly pop into your head and somehow come to take on much greater importance in retrospect. There is one “event” I think about nearly every day as I go to work. To call it an event is probably far too strong. It is really just a thing I saw and heard one day and it pops into my head every time I use my electronic card to use the subway.
Without further ado, here is the event that inevitably comes to mind as I swipe my card at the subway station.
Picture it, Seoul, 2009. Jegi-dong Station.
An older man, let’s say early in his 60’s, is accompanied by a younger man. I assumed that it was a father-son combo. The son was explaining to his father all about the subway and what to do and how to use it. I assumed at this point that the father was from the countryside and was unfamiliar with the subway and all the intricacies of public transport in a major metropolis. Aside from this being a very cute and presumably rare scene I was also happy because I managed to work out what the son was saying in Korean. He instructed his father that we must always use our right hand to swipe the electronic cards in order enter and find our way to the tracks.
You might be wondering a few things at this point. Things like, “Why does Mike think about this every day?’ And, “Why is Mike blogging about this?”
I can’t really answer the first question. I hope that maybe blogging about it will exorcise this event from my mind and I will think of something new tomorrow as I swipe my card. Also, maybe I can’t answer the first question because the event just randomly pops into my head. Please note that I don’t always swipe with my right hand.
As for why I decided to share this story, it reminds me of teaching and learning how to teach. We learn all these “rules” and just accept them because someone told us. Perhaps it was a tutor on a training course. Perhaps we read these ideas in a book. Perhaps we heard them at a conference and decided they were good rules to follow. Perhaps we saw our teachers do it when we were students and decided that it was a rule that we needed to follow. Perhaps the principal or other person outside of our classroom or context set this rule.
As I mentioned, I sometimes use my left hand to swipe my card. I usually smile when I do this because I imagine I’m breaking some sacred rule. I wonder what other rules I follow in life and teaching without thinking them through as I just accept the wisdom of others.
I should admit (?) that using one’s right hand is probably generally preferable because the machines that check the cards are always on our right side, whether we are entering or leaving the station. I think “use your right hand to swipe your card” is pretty good advice but just I don’t think it is or should be a rule. Sometimes we need to carry something in our right hand, no?
In a previous post about “The Cult of ICQs” I mentioned the idea of “Tools not rules” (thanks J-Dogg ).I think this is an incredibly important idea for teachers to keep in mind. It seems to me that what teachers learn as “rules” in training courses simply being good practice or good advice.
I find myself wondering a few things:
- Are there actually “rules?”
If so, what are they and where do they come from? (My answer on this at the moment is no, but I am willing to read attempts to convince me otherwise)
- *Should teacher trainers emphasize they are not telling rules but simply helping with tools?
If yes, how can this be done?
I also wonder about the father and if he has ever used his left hand to swipe his card.
Finally, those interested in “Breaking Rules” might be interested in checking out #iTDi’s excellent collection of blog posts on rule breaking.