Throwing My Loop…
By: Michael Johnson
Goodness gracious, ain’t that
the biggest mouthful of words you ever saw in your life?
An-dra-gog-i-cal. You gotta’ chew on all those
syllables for three minutes just to get them in the right
order on your tongue so you can say it…but the word is
important. The word describes perhaps the most important
people in our lives.
For some years now, I’ve been aware that certain people
in my life have an ability to create “improvement” in me.
When they are trying to help me learn something - to move me
forward down the path – I actually move. After spending
time with them - no matter what we are attempting to
accomplish - if they are around, I do better than I normally
do. In writing, roping, with horses, in my work, and my
life in general, these special people – I call them
“coaches”- help me do better. Self-esteem increasing,
confidence boosting, real, squeeze it with your hand and
feel it, tangible help. (And Lord knows every
teacher I ever had in junior high would tell you, “That
boy was sooo hard to help!”) For years I had no idea
how they were causing this change, or even what they were
doing. But…my understanding of the mystery is improving.
It’s all in their teaching style.
There are two kinds of teachers – pedagogical and
andragogical. Let’s call them “P” teachers and “A”
teachers. While we may not use the word “pedagogy” every
day, we know all about “pedagogical” teachers. We’ve seen
them, been with them, and taught by them all our lives.
Those who teach in the “P” style have certain beliefs about
themselves and about us students. First of all, they are
superior to us. To most “P” teachers, we are dumb brutish
beasts with little worth. All of the wisdom resides in the
pedagogical teacher. He or she usually stands behind some
sort of podium or lectern, and simply talks. (Think
lecturers, teachers, horse trainers doing a clinic, etc.)
“P” teachers must give us information because we don’t know
anything – or if we’re lucky, they think at best we are a
blank slate and assume our prior knowledge and our
experiences are lacking in any real value. And our
potential? They seldom worry about that since in their
minds almost always… we have none. Most importantly, since
“P” teachers see little value in us, they rarely get to know
us. We are just one of the many. They may not actually
dislike us, but don’t plan on a friendship with these
people. We just don’t measure up to their standards.
There is another kind of teacher. I’ve found that
describing them is difficult. Once I told my friend and
wonderful stand-up comic, Kent Rader, about how much one of
my coaches had helped me. “Darrell Buzan doesn’t make a
list of what you do right and a list of what you do wrong,”
I said to Kent.
“What on earth does he do then?” he asked. “What does
he do that has helped you so?” I found that difficult to
answer. Here are some characteristics of “A” teachers…
* Experience with “A” teachers usually begins
because you seek them out.
* “A” teachers ask you a large number of questions.
This seems odd because since we are so dumb and lacking in
knowledge, why would our answers be important? Why would
anyone want to hear what we think? “A” teachers do.
* They don’t tell you much. If you ask them
how to do something, they don’t tell you how to do
it. “Experts” do that. Ask an “expert” how to rope, play a
violin, hit a golf ball, train a horse, or anything else you
can think of, and they will talk all day. “A” teachers want
you to do it.
* “A” teachers don’t use much praise at all. Again, this
seems to violate what we have heard most of our lives about
what good teachers should do. That is, that when we do
something well, teachers should praise and reinforce our
correct action. “A” teachers don’t hand out many
compliments. They are too busy wanting you to see you do
* “A” teachers like us. They often become shining
lights in our memories.
Examples of how an “A” teachers approach leadership,
teaching, and coaching…
My wife, Sherry, holds an administrative position at
the university. When she is asked to handle a particular
organizational problem, she first visits with the group
concerned. After she has assembled necessary facts and
information, instead of telling people what they should do,
she always begins by saying, “Tell me what happened.
Tell me what you think.”
When I ask Bronc Fanning or Kenneth Colson – two of my
best roping coaches – why I missed a steer, they rarely ever
describe physical errors in my delivery of the rope.
Instead, they will ask me where my horse was positioned.
They make me think. They involve me in the solution.
When at a herding dog clinic, Orin Barnes talks a bit,
but he requires the majority of the time be spent with me
working my dog. All the while he’s asking me why is the dog
doing what he’s doing. He forces me to look at myself. He
doesn’t tell me. He makes me do it.
I have watched countless horse trainers on television,
but I never learned more than when Australian Joe Guy came
to my farm, and watched me work with my horses. He didn’t
tell me how to; he asked me why it was happening.
He forced me to think. He involved me in the solution.
Moral of the story? In our own lives, with our
children, grandchildren, and with our animals, we should
strive to be “A” teachers. And if we desire to improve
personally at any task, we should seek out andragogical
teachers. If you do, not only will you improve, but later
in life when you have hard times, those shining lights will
be in your memory – and they will give you strength. They
will help you find your way.
Michael heading for the great Sonny Gould
The Rowdy Cow Dog