Monday, October 25, 2010

A Numb Butt Makes A Numb Mind

I spent all day yesterday renewing my first aid and CPR certification. It's been a long time since I've sat in a chair, facing the front of a room, paying attention. We got a one hour break for lunch and we did spend about an hour practicing on the CPR dummies, but otherwise we pretty much sat for 6 hours, alternating between watching a video and listening to our instructor Michelle talk.

Man that was hard. I'd planned enough in advance to bring along a small pad of paper and a pen, not for note taking, but rather for doodling. It wasn't enough. I don't remember having a particularly hard time sitting through class as a boy, I must have been better conditioned for just sitting, but yesterday was brutal. I tried to sit still, I really did, but 5 minutes was about as long as I could manage any one position before my butt or my back or my legs started barking at me to fidget. I leaned forward, I leaned backward, I slouched, I sat bolt straight, I twisted around sideways, I tucked a leg under me, I bounced my leg up and down, I propped my chin in my hands, I sat on my hands, I put my hands in my pockets, and I doodled. As my doodle page became more crowded with tiny pictures, I challenged myself to stick with only one sheet of  4"X3" paper.

Here is the product of my 6 hours of effort:

It looks a lot like my notebook covers looked in high school. In first grade I made a single piece of doodle paper last the entire school year. 

Yes, I did refresh my knowledge of CPR and first aid. They've made it all simpler than it used to be, because as Michelle explained, the simpler they make the instructions, the more lives get saved. Apparently, the Seattle area has the highest rate of CPR/first aid training in the world, with survival rates to prove its worth doing.

I didn't notice any of my 30 or so classmates fidgeting like I was. But I did catch some dozing, especially when the lights were turned off for watching the video. And the teacher and parent educator (who shall remain unnamed, Matt and Elizabeth) sitting behind me, lured me into a bit of under-the-breath wise cracking. And as the session rolled on, more and more people raised their hands to ask questions, often running far afield of the subject at hand. It was a lot like the classes I remember growing up, sitting at desks, trying our best to be "good," doing whatever we could to stay awake, stay focused, and stay one step ahead of our barking body parts.

I've been taking these classes every 2 years for 12 years. We used to spend a lot of time practicing things like splinting, bandaging, and properly moving injured people. That was fun. I got so I would choose who I would sit beside based upon my desire to pretend they had blood gushing from a head injury. There was always a lot of laughing and silliness, but also a heaping helping of hands-on learning.

But apparently, according to Michelle who I spoke with after class, they've discovered that they were over-training we lay people. It seems that if we can just re-start the breathing and stop the bleeding, we've done pretty much all we need to do in the Seattle metropolitan area before the EMTs arrive to take over. So instead of an 8 hour course crammed with details of what to do in every emergency, it was 8 hours of repeating the same things over and over. I like that the training is now more effective than in the past, and I like that the stuff we need to know is so straight forward and simple that I now feel like I could teach the course myself.

Oh, but it was a painful learning process. I couldn't wait to walk the dogs, listen to the radio, and breath in the cool, damp fall air awaiting me outside.

There were 6 of us there from Woodland Park. On our Pre-K days we will now have 4 CPR/first aid certified adults in the room with our 9 boys. Holy cow!

It was such a welcome change of pace to walk out of that classroom at North Seattle Community College to find a wet, cold, windy afternoon, where Jarin and Isak, there with their dad Craig, were waiting for their mom Leslie. The boys were grinning and flushed, Jarin's 6-year-old smile missing all four of his upper center teeth. "Dad let us ride the elevators by ourselves!" They were alive and excited and while Leslie admitted that she didn't think she would have let them have that adventure, she suddenly looked alive and excited too.

We'd emerged from a one-dimensional classroom into an infinitely rich, impromptu learning environment, on our feet, all our senses engaged. There was no fidgeting, no struggle to stay awake, no wise cracking in the back row, no talking just to hear ourselves talk. I have no doubt that those boys with their father had learned as much in their 15 minutes of waiting in the rain as we had in 8 hours of sitting.

During our lunch break I picked up a copy of the Sunday edition of The Seattle Times because I'd noticed the Parade magazine section contained an interview with Bill Gates entitled, "What I've Learned About Great Teachers." Like most Parade pieces it turned out to be so fluffy that there was no there there, but I did sit up and take note when Bill was asked, "You and Melinda have three school-aged kids. Are you involved in their education?"

This unquestionably intelligent man, this famous college drop-out, this man whose foundation has spent over $4 billion on various education projects, answered, "Last year our family traveled for three months, and we did some homeschooling . . . We went to the Large Hadron Collider, the giant particle accelerator in Switzerland. We went to a toilet-paper factory, a garbage dump, an aircraft carrier, and a coal plant . . ."

Most of us can't travel for 3 months and a giant particle accelerator may not be on the agenda, but I happen to know that the Gates family travels with their own security team. His kids can't ride the elevators by themselves at NSCC on a rainy weekend. It's all education. It's not about who has more money, it's about seeking out experiences in the real world, while never forgetting that a numb butt makes a numb mind. 

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Scott said...

Maybe you could rework the training session. I'm sure a little flyswatter painting or explosion experiments would make it better!

You are right - active learning is so much better.

I saw a poster at a training last year: "If the bum is numb, the brain is the same."

Beansprouts said...

Love the title : ) I was listening to Bev Bos yesterday at a conference and she was reminding us that there are no learning centers in our bottoms, and that if we want kids to learn, to let them move, and let them stand if that's what they need to do. I've heard that (especially typical "boy" brains) need movement to assimilate information in the brain. Maybe next time you can request listening to the training while doing rough-and-tumble play in the back row with your male classmates : ) And I'm right there with you...if I'm not doodling, then I'm not paying attention.

dulcie said...

Well said.

Juliet Robertson said...

Another powerful post - I like the use of your images. I'm so glad that last year my outdoor first aid train was fun...the trainer showed us lots of stuff and tailored it to our interests and needs - no numb bums and lots of interesting discussions.

Mr Gates might do better to visit the particle accelerator in his own country! Fermilab in Illinois is a remarkable place and a demonstration that art, energy matter and ecology are all but different sides of the same coin (think about this phrase - the twist is intentional).

Sherry and Donna said...

I read this post yesterday Tom then last night went to a talk where we sat for 2 1/2 hours crammed into seats positioned so close to each other we were sitting shoulder to shoulder ... seriously have conference organizers never heard of personal space! ... Anyway all I could think of ten minutes in was what you had written here. I couldn't sit still to save myself AND I had given my pen and notepad to the guy sitting next to me who wanted to take notes (Sherry wrote "our" notes.) As a result I'm not really sure I took in all that I should ... and I wasn't the only one who felt this way. One girl behind me clicked her pen CONSTANTLY click, click, click, click another fellow tapped his knee INCESSANTLY, the guy next to me sat forward, sat back, sat forward, sat back ... aaarrrggghhhh why do we do this to ourselves!

Be the one said...

I spent all day yesterday renewing my first aid and CPR certification. It's been a long time since I've sat in a chair, facing the front of a room, paying attention.

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Be the one said...

I didn't notice any of my 30 or so classmates fidgeting like I was. But I did catch some dozing, especially when the lights were turned off for watching the video.

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