For Parents and Students:
“The First Thing”
How I teach, Why I teach
How a Love for Language helped me become a successful
Web Development Tutor
Mr. Coder emphasizes a love of learning and language. This is the first point of his teaching style emphasized in this article, which is aimed at those who aren’t yet convinced of the relevance of the love of learning and language for education in general and focus more on getting good grades. Here, you will read how Mr. Coder’s love of language helped him learn to do web programming very easily without any teachers (and everyone knows there is good money in web programming!). A healthy love for language and learning will take you very far in life. A few of Mr. Coder’s other main points of teaching style are outlined.
What distinguishes me from most educators I have met is that I am less “technical” with regard to the subjects I teach, even though I am such a highly-rated computer programming tutor. I love applying teaching and learning methods – in my own learning, and in teaching others; but what distinguishes me most is probably my approach to Desire. I am also a bit more explicit about some things, like the importance of loving language. In my experience, this brings a breath of fresh life into things like computer programming. But by obvious extension, it is also powerful in helping people – young and old – to renew their efforts at learning, revitalizing their desire to learn, and making the learning process easier. This is especially the case for writing.
Experience has shown me that one critical element which is under-developed in almost all students is a love for language. When a student does have a love for language – so many things can be learned much more easily, without anxiety, and the student is likely to become both a more charitable person, and a major achiever in life.
From the first moment I speak with a student, I am listening very carefully. One very important goal is not so much to spot mistakes or find learning gaps, but to find out what the student wants in life, what he or she enjoys or desires.Experience has shown me that one critical element which is under-developed in almost all students is a love for language. One of the very most important things an educator does, is help the desire of a student: fostering the desire to learn. So I learn what the student likes and dislikes; I learn what has helped and what hasn’t. Is the student motivated by accomplishments? Motivated by helping others? Motivated by helping / loving family, friends, or peer group? Motivated by music, by beauty in art? Motivated by justice issues, sense of harm brought to society? I learn what can be taken as a reasonable challenge, and what at the moment is still more like an irritation or something causing displeasure or learning anxiety, and which values seem not yet to have been developed. This, of course, is one of the essential things distinguishing a tutor from a classroom teacher. Classroom teachers are limited in how they must try to speak to the desires of all students in the class – which, of course, vary dramatically. But a good tutor will listen carefully, and can learn to work with the grain of what the student already wants in life and truly understands about life, instead of against it.
One thing that helps enormously is explaining how a love for language helps even in things like learning computer programming. What do we learn in computer programming? A language. In my case, PHP. Syntax. Programmers even call this “syntax.” It’s nothing other than how words inter-relate. Computer commands, functions, classes, methods – this is all syntax and “name spaces,” or words that have meaningful inter-relationships and do certain things. What do we learn in computer programming?
A language.Just like words in human languages do things. Wanna learn computer languages like you’re skipping through the park? Learn to become curious about new words; learn to appreciate the semantic nuances of words. Your mind will gobble up all those technical-sounding functions and class methods like ice cream, when the time comes for you to learn programming. Belgians are astoundingly good with language, often knowing two or three fluently. This might be why there are so many reknown Belgian software developers, like Robert Cailliau, Pieter Hintjens, and Dries Butyaert.
I love good, elegant code, just like I love poetry. And I love poetry, like I love good, elegant code. You really want to pick up on this “loving language” thing – as impractical as it might sound at the moment.I love poetry, like I love good, elegant code. Please let me assure you: It is not “practical” simply because it is not a short-term thing. It’s a long-term thing. The sooner you start, the better! This is one of the very best ways that I can help you make your life better, and help you love your fellow human beings more effectively. This is nothing new, this is probably what your instructors have told you your whole life long. If I can blow some more life into it by telling you about how beauty in language helps people make money and write code – you can bet your bottom dollar I will try, and I will try very hard.
This takes time, and is best done subtly. I ask a few initial questions, but then get on to the “work” of helping a student, and see how the student responds. After a while, I have a clearer idea of how to speak to what the student already understands about life, and what the student wants out of life. I find avenues of helping them better understand that learning to love language will help their heart, mind and life. I aim to expand that desire, so the student learns gently and gradually to love more things about language, communicate more effectively, and think more clearly. After we learn to think more clearly, we become able to think more deeply.
Central to what I do is helping the student learn to value truth, and enjoy the active pursuit of truth.
This quickens a desire to become a good researcher.
It might sound a bit odd, but even with web development and PHP programming students: I aim to impart a sense of living wholeness into the PHP language. Imparting an infectious love for language and for learning is a central and irreplaceable foundation for what I doWhy I love it, and how it has helped me think more clearly and powerfully. How it is not only good for moving around ones and zeroes or making nifty websites, but laying bare some of the essential things about how complex things move and interact in orderly and meaningful ways. Some seasoned programmers find an odd sort of art and poetry in code. Even tech-geek computer science students can appreciate this when they learn about how a love for the PHP language has made learning how to code easier and more desirable,
And the beauty and power of the English language is so much deeper and potent than any programming language. And learning to love it will make so many things in life so much easier and effective – for you, for your loved ones, for your children.
Imparting an infectious love for language and for learning is a central and irreplaceable foundation for what I do – whether it is helping with grammar and mechanics, vocabulary, or even teaching web programming. PHP, HTML and CSS – these are also languages! If I can impart to someone the love of language – I have helped them in so many ways simultaneously. So I have a deep gratitude for the many students who have encouraged me by noting my enthusiasm for language – whether it be a living language, or a programming language.
The one thing any educator worth his or her salt wishes profoundly, for everyone around them: “Do not depart from the good, the true, the beautiful. Learning to love them is often difficult, and will continue as a struggle throughout your whole lifetime. You will be tempted to give in to the cheap, the false, the substitute. For the good, the true, and the beautiful: there are no substitutes.”
Main Points in my Teaching
Style and Ethos
(Note: not all points are applicable equally to all ages; for eighth graders, for example: what students will learn about the mind is limited. But the main important points helping disillusion false beliefs can even be absorbed fruitfully at this grade level, and can prevent the sedimentation of false beliefs, lazy thinking resulting from those beliefs, and bad behavior from a cumulation of false beliefs)
1. Foster a deep love of language
Move gently, from student’s current expectations and current “homework” – to find avenues for channeling and expanding student’s expectations and desires; act in ways that are consistent with the student loving learning more. Gradually point out the “cheap” and “short-sighted” aspects of a student’s materials, prompts, notes, but only very gradually and gently: do NOT work in a way that detracts from the student’s school teachers, parents, or other tutors. Show students more long-term, abiding methods of learning when possible.
There will likely be tension here. Help the student understand that tension before moving too far or too quickly. If the student does not understand the tension or can not maintain respect for teachers, seriously consider NOT moving in that area, but keeping with the teacher’s plan. Learning anxiety is a major cause of students’ diminished desire to learn. And the desire to learn is utterly essential to life.
Problems with the “Dead Poets Society” approach (teaching love for something by getting angry at how literary criticism can make the study of poetry sound like “laying pipe”): You can criticize previous methods of learning, but be utterly careful that you bring respect to educators, even those with misguided ideals or methods. Don’t assume you know everything about another educator; students will exaggerate areas where they have been discouraged or hurt. Also, I teach my students very explicitly: some of the very most important and fruitful material I had to learn was taught by very unpopular and ‘boring’ professors. Many educational methods or “emphases” came about to correct a previous problem; “over-correction” or a new issue from a new technique are to be expected (including this one).
Encourage charity and a charitable view point. This will be needed badly for students to learn about “charitable reading.”
2. Learn about long term working memoryLearn how this is formed, and and how your mind actually works. Learn techniques for removing anxiety from learning and from life.
3. From #2, we learn how mind, heart, and body work together helping memoryand learn how taking notes will help you in almost every aspect of life, will be one of the cornerstones of your success in almost any field, will work intimately in how your mind processes things and remembers things, so you gradually become a more intelligent and charitable person and life-long learner.
4. Encourage a high degree of independence and independent learning in areas that are particularly technical.For writing, this would be vocabulary, grammar and mechanics. Students can be assigned projects with some mentoring or oversight.
5. Use good, distraction-free technologies which help good “bracketing” and reductionbut then also discourage eisegesis / “echo chambers” / decontextualization / reductivism. “Technologies” includes habits, methods, ideas, frameworks, ideologies: such as religious fundamentalism or identitarianism.
6. Harvard Writing Lab’s Write / Review / Improve cycleThis is a profoundly fruitful example of #5, and is also very useful for #1 and #3. With time and the right oversight of peer review, it can also be used with #4. Speaking of the Harvard Writing Lab, they did a great study following 400 freshmen through their four years of college, producing this short film which every American family and educator should see. (Yes, it is the same one featured on the front page. In my opinion, it is that important. Sometimes educators repeat things!)
7. Use evidence-based methodologiesThe method I use is strongly evidence-based, drawing from research done by the Harvard Writing Lab, some of our nation’s best writing instructors, and numerous psychologists and people studying the actual ways language relates to ideas. I hope to provide more articles on the how’s and why’s of this methodology and its clear rationale and scientific backing in future articles.
8. Be clear about what you are doing and what your methodology is.In my case, I tell students that I also teach values that are necessary for learning, to help them learn better. The love of learning in general is such a value. The love of language is another. “Know your limitations!!” – another value. “Learn to love the art of aiming high, but in a way that you can scale back if you aren’t able to meet your goals.” And of course, some are very simply formulated: “Learn to love truth.”
You don’t have to use my methodology yourself. But do be honest about yours.It is a good thing that most educators don’t talk about fostering a love for learning and language, since most likely, most aren’t able to. Honesty here is primary. It is much, much better to be taught by an honest instructor, than one who is very enthusiastic but also dishonest.
Loving truth is one of the values that will take you a long way in life. An instructor with a deep love for truth will be a bit reluctant “talking up” their abilities as a teacher, or their enthusiasm.
One thing I also emphasize: As “enthusiastic” as I am, I wish my students also to learn how to learn from boring instructors, and learn from “boring” people in general. Many utterly boring people have imparted upon society very necessary insights. I have learned so very much of my very methodology from people and books most would consider phenomenally boring. I would not be even close to where I am now, were I not able to attentively listen to boring people. You will have boring bosses and boring colleagues with vital information you need to have. You might get married and frequently find – your spouse boring you out of your mind, though you must continue listening to your spouse, or all hell will break loose. Learning to listen to everyone will get you very far in life. The critical thing is chosing who to listen to, and also how (critically, yet charitably).