What are Teaching and Learning?

I have often wondered how best to describe my teaching method. A tricky question to answer, since most of us evolve and develop our methods and the tools we accomplish them with over many years, even decades. As for my personal approach, it has certainly changed beyond all recognition from my first foray into the classroom over twenty years ago. If I had to give it a name, I would call it the 'structural-analytical' approach, although I must certainly acknowledge a debt to Michael Lewis and his excellent book The Lexical Approach, published in 1993 and which I read around the turn of the millennium.

However, I have also grown and changed and, in a very real sense, emerged as a writer. These days, I see myself as a writer who teaches, rather than a teacher who writes. Part of my output is the short story genre, particularly in the form of a dialogue or monologue. It occurred to me that my teaching method is merely a physical manifestation of a teaching philosophy, which must in turn be based on a particular world-view, which itself grows, changes, and matures as knowledge and experience accumulate in equal measure as the years pass.

It just so happens that I was musing on such matters today when a conversation between the Archetypal Tutor and the Archetypal Student started playing in my mind's theatre. 

Naturally intrigued, I paused to watch the performance and very edifying it was. I realised that I could sum up my entire philosophy of teaching in the form of a short story, et voila!

The Teacher and the Taught.

Listen. You are going on a journey. 

I don't want to.

Tough luck. These are the tools you're going to need, see?


This is how you make them. You take some of this and some of those, and you put this thing here, and that bit goes there, and you pull on that bit like this, got it?

Got it.

Watch. This is how you use them. You put this in here, pull back like this, and pull.

Whhheeeee, BANG!!!!!

See? Now you try.

Okay, that's easy. 



Hmm. Hold it more like this, put that bit more over there, hold more tightly here, and pull back a bit harder on that bit. Try again.

Wheeee, splat.

Okay, a bit more pressure here. Again.

Wheeee, splat.


It's too hard. I can't do it.

Yes, you can. Watch again. Pay attention.

Whhheeeee, BANG!!!!!

Now try again.


Whheee, bang.

Good. Move that bit a tiny  bit more over there. Now try again.

Whhheeeee, BANG!

Hey, I did it!

Well done. I said you could do it, didn't I?

Yes, you did. Is that it, then? Am I finished?

No. You've got the tools, and you know how to use them. Now we can start the journey. See this? This is a map. This is how you read it. Listen.......