Thoughts on Precipitation and Education

It rains in Vancouver.  This year, it’s rained a lot.  We have narrowly missed beating a record set in the 1950s for the longest number of days with measurable rain (last Sunday was, frustratingly, clear and blue and gorgeous). Most of the time, the rain doesn’t bother me, as I live most of the day indoors.  Sometimes, it gets depressing.  On the plus side, it means that the local ski hills have over 200cm of accumulated snow, with fresh powder added up most days (70cm in the last week alone).  That, if you actually make it up the mountain, is very good news.

Last night Emily and I went up early enough to sign up for lessons (it’s one of the best features of Vancouver that one can go skiing in the evening, “just like that”).  By luck, as I was the only student in my level, I ended up with a private lesson instead of a group one.  I improved more in an hour and a half than I have in the last twenty years (since I haven’t had a lesson in over twenty years and didn’t ski for most of those, it’s not too hard, but I really did improve a lot).  My instructor has been teaching for 20+ years, and he simply knew exactly what I was doing wrong (lots), and how to make me improve.  And he did it with kindness, encouragement, and good cheer.

This brought to mind two thoughts on education that I have had frequently as I’ve watched my kids learn (whether they’re learning math, spelling or soccer): First, that good educators are undervalued.  There is something unique and very powerful about one competent teacher helping another that simply can’t be replaced by self-teaching, books, online anything. It’d be good to bottle it, but I don’t think it can be bottled.  Second, that I, at least, respond extremely well to positive feedback and very poorly to negative feedback — it’s not just that I enjoy myself more when treated well, but I really do work harder and get better.  Unfortunately, many of my formative years were spent in an educational system which primarily believed in the latter, which is one reason why it’s taken me years to sign up for these ski lessons in the first place — I still expect to be yelled at…

Note to self: take more lessons.

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