Little Consolation

At the end of this morning’s Cisco class, while I was packing the cables back into their boxes, Consolata, a student from another class, was examining the wires I had packed away. I smiled at her.
“We are curious”, she said…

“Good!”, I said.
She indicated the pale blue console cables neatly folded and stuffed into plastic bags. “What cables are those?”.
“You have used them in your Cisco class”, I said, and then indicating a network diagram I’d drawn on the whiteboard, “to connect a PC to a Router like this.”
“Ah, consolke cables!”, she exclaimed, “I was going to say that”.
“Why didn’t you?”
“I was afraid.”
“What were you afraid of?”
“…afraid that it was wrong”
This sort of confirms my theory about what’s going on here. This wasn’t even a class, it was during break and the lady was speaking in a clear voice which seems to be banned during classes, the mumbled whisper being the preferred method of miscommunication. And yet she daren’t give her answer for fear that it be the wrong one.
How can I help Consolata not to be afraid of being wrong? To be proud of her own ideas, be they ingenious or whacky. Or just plain daft.


  1. Lydia Says:

    From what you have said previously this might mean all kinds of cultural shifting. Are you looking at this from your own perspective of what is a good idea? I’m not saying that having the courage to suggest and be proud of your own thoughts is a bad one, I just wonder what kind of cascade that evokes.

  2. Mark Says:

    Of course Im looking at it from my own perspective of what is a good idea.

    Even you are not saying it’s bad. I have no idea what the consequences of it might be. The consequences of every choice we make in life **might** be bad. OK Im making a judgement about Consolata’s fear. I admit that. In the immediate environment of being in school, and especially where I am the teacher, it would be of some benefit for her to have confidence in her own ideas.

    As I said in a previous entry, maybe it’s none of my business. Chris’s comment there is relevant here too: Then why not leave? If it’s not my business to be here interfeerig with people’s minds then I should bugger off back to… my home? England? Maybe I shouldn’t be allowed to teach at all. Maybe I shouldn’t be allowed to live outside Lowestoft.

    Some people involved with VSO clearly believe that just having us all (in the world) know more about each other is a good thing. In that respect, this blog is doing its best to help. Perhaps "the much I can do" (as they say here) is to offer that "I **think** its better for her to have confidence in her own thoughts. But she can’t really make up her own mind until she has tried it…

    Oh bleah! ITs ash wednesday and all the catholic students are off getting litte soot marks on their heads. Hey ho!

  3. christine Says:

    Hey, I think I’m one of those VSO people believing that just having us all know more about each other is a good thing! Mostly, cause we are ALL in this world. Together. There’s lots I didn’t know about tall, bald, dancing British men before I left Canada…

    But I am also one of those people guided by a "do no harm" mantra rather than a "do good" one. Do gooders are bad! With huge arrogance and the best of intentions, they reek havoc in this country. By presupposing they know best, they know the way. You don’t do that. Thank the goddessess, you’re NOT a do gooder Mark. You are a master of reflective practice. And you care enough about understanding how your presence here impacts your students that you think and write and share about it. And your friends who aren’t here care enough to listen and think and share with you. That may not be everything…may not be perfect…but it is important.

    And those whispering, eye-avoidant students…I don’t know how you do it! I don’t know why they do it. But I’ve seen them here in Nanyuki. Whispering, avoiding eye-contact, and all but disappearing as they approach their Kenyan teachers. Ah, we still have so much to learn. One year and counting.

    Love C

  4. Chris Says:

    "Maybe I shouldn’t be allowed to live outside Lowestoft"

    This is clearly the problem. Look at the damage The Darkness have done… :doze:

    Seriously. One thing I wanted to share was that I had some similar experiences not long before I gave up lecturing for a while. I had a class of unmotivated, low-ability students who drove me crazy, not because of their lack of ability, but because of their lack of drive to do any learning.

    These students were really frustrating, and I started to hate turning up to teach them. In the end, I’m not sure what triggered it, but I managed to changed my hate into compassion (in the Buddhist sense I guess) — I realised that it wasn’t necessarily their fault they were like this, but it was a result of all their life experiences and challenges up to that point.

    After that I adopted a "we’re all in this together" kind of attitude and I was much happier. I realised that the particular part of The System that we all found ourselves in wasn’t really working, and it was far from ideal, but it was our challenge to get through it as best we could. I realised that my insistence on "educating them regardless" was arrogance on my part. I became much, much happier when I redefined my criteria for success.

    You could argue that I was weak, and that I "gave up", but I think chilling out a bit with them probably made me a more effective teacher in that environment.

    You could also argue, as you possibly would if you’ve done ISA or something similar, that it *is* their fault that they were like that. To which I would say: give them a break.

    Love, chris

  5. sophia Says:

    I would like to write something helpful, but do not know what this would be, Mark. I am sure your presence is for people’s good there, but whether it is good for the people there to dare and make mistakes … I have no idea.

    Take care,


  6. Jan Says:

    I have just read all this .chat about teaching and when I first saw that they didnt seem to want to learn I could notunderstand them but I take it they are brought up to be in ore of their teachers ??and therefor you are fighting a lifetime of conditioning .. How do you really think you can break that ? or does that realte to living out of Lowestoft ??? Or dargaville come to that ! and Chris said he taught chemistry and horticulture .. needless to say in the horticulture class he had all the ones that didnt want to learn or behave at all .. but in the process of cutting stuff off plants and getting it to grow they became very interested and better all round.. not that I am, suggesting you put plants in the lab …but it takes somthing to trigger it I guess…
    But it is not worth getting stressed about … and I dont do too well with this as I dont hvae the spell check and it all looks fine to me …
    and hey looking at the sympsons and princess bride must really come as a shock after what you see every day …
    I think it was very good for you …and sounds really good fun as a drinking game .
    Thinking of you love Jan xx 🙂

  7. Mark Says:


    If I ever had any doubt that this blog was useful, this page alone can rest my fears. Thank you all **so much** for all your kind and helpful thoughts.

    Chris, whats the budhist take on compassion? I’m holding on to your earlier comment that when I feel anger I should try to be compssionate.

    Can’t write too much right now as there is a Cisco class going and I have some young minds to meddle with 😉

    But thanks again to all of you!

  8. Sophia Says:

    .. and what has happened since last time, Mark? Your blog is like a story in installments? You cannot keep us like that!

    Sophia 🙂

  9. Mark Says:

    The latest installment is on the end of another entry.

Add your comment