Teaching as White Water Rafting
“One of my favorite metaphors is teaching as white water rafting. In both, periods of apparent calm are interspersed with sudden frenetic turbulence. Tranquility co-exists with excitement, reflection with action. If we are fortunate enough to negotiate crises successfully we feel a sense of self-confident exhilaration. If we capsize our self-confidence is shaken as we are awash in self-doubt.” (Brookfield, 2015, p.5)
This metaphor nicely captures the multiple emotional experiences of teaching and even sparked a few additional thoughts for me.
- Every journey, either on a river or when teaching, is always different. The rapids, water flow, and temperature or the objectives, delivery and learners bring new experiences to each encounter.
- Adequate preparation is required for both. When rafting, safety is paramount so it is important that adequate instruction be provided prior to the excursion on safety, required equipment and general expectations. In teaching, preparation will help identify potential barriers to learning allowing for adjustments to be made prior to delivery. Preparation and practice can also help alleviate nerves and fear!
- Unforeseen obstacles are to be expected. When rafting, obstacles are the norm and appropriate paddle technique is required to negotiate and/or avoid. In teaching, unanticipated questions may arise or identification of confusion from the learners and these must be met head on by using appropriate techniques to navigate through. Asking leading questions to clarify confusion, describing the concept using analogies to re-present a point are examples of techniques that can be tried.
I think the experience of teaching offers the opportunity to encounter a wide range of emotions that take you through highs, lows and everything in-between. For me, it is the reason teaching remains interesting as every situation is unique and because of that, it offers new learning and continual professional growth.
Brookfield, S.D. (2015). The Skillful Teacher: On Technique, Trust, and Responsiveness in the Classroom (3rd ed.). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.