Classroom Hobbits & Their Loyalties

» Posted by on Mar 9, 2012 in Blog, Literature, On the Learning | Comments Off on Classroom Hobbits & Their Loyalties

Classroom Hobbits & Their Loyalties

Children are like hobbits not only in stature, but also in how quietly they can sneak about (once a certain coordination is attained), and then finally in the peculiar things they seem to remember most. More similarities could be pointed out, but educators will do well to remember the last one especially. Children have a funny way of remembering what they will remember, and not what they are told to remember. No doubt they have incredible capability to memorize, but what really makes an impression on them is often not what the teacher would expect or intend.

The unpredictability of it is much like Frodo and his hobbit companions in their first encounter with elves. Each of them remembers random particulars about this significant event. For one hobbit, it is the bright elf-faces, the savory bread, and the beer. Another “could never describe in words” what he later recalled, but related, “it was the singing that went to my heart, if you know what I mean.” And then there is Frodo, perhaps our good student, who is really into the foreign language, and trying to throw a word in here and there of what he knows. Also, he is the only one who is enthusiastic about the details of what everyone is actually talking about (Fellowship of the Ring, ch. 3).

From their time at school, who knows what students might notice most and then walk away with, but we can be sure that one or other of them will not forget the teacher’s belt buckle or nosehairs. Or in a homeschooling disciplinary lecture, the pre-schooler will think more about the gap in Dad’s teeth than anything Dad is saying. More predictably, interactions and competitions among peers on a playground will resonate longer than much of the formal learning. Stories will also stay with them, especially if they are shown to love and hate certain ones properly. And I think that, like the hobbit, they will remember the singing, if it is there.

Most importantly, while they might never recall the instructor’s propositional statements, they will always, as N.D. Wilson puts it*, keep a keen sense of what team the instructor was on: whether “team stress-out about skirts,” “team anal-retentive,” or hopefully a team that students are drawn to and will stay loyal to. To the youngsters, we teachers will be characters as in a story: maybe a “guardian of the gate” or a “snoozing shepherd,” or perhaps a villain or a hero. Based on this narrative that they experience, and the odd bits that they remember, the students too are formed into certain characters.

*(Wilson’s lecture is titled “Story Wars” and can be found by a search for the title after following the above link to the ACCS 2010 conference recordings.)