May 292016

Huseyin Can March 2106Last week, I had to take care of my nephew, Hüseyin Can, for a couple of hours. Hüseyin Can is special. He’s got cerebral palsy. You can watch some videos of him on YouTube.
I wanted to keep him occupied but also get some stuff done that I wanted to do, which was to sort through the latest batch of photographs I had taken. I had never done this while my nephew was present. So, while I was flicking through my photographs and deciding which to keep and which to delete and talking aloud to keep him engaged, he was watching what I was doing. He’s good with computers and also learns quickly by observing. After a while, he motioned that he wanted to take control of moving forward to the next picture and the delete button. I was still talking about the images: ‘This is nice, I’ll keep it. Move to the next one. This one is blurry, let’s delete it…’ But then, Hüseyin Can started to decide himself and was proceeding to delete some images I wanted to keep. I had to stop him and explain that I liked them, but he disagreed and showed that he didn’t like them. Then came pictures he liked and he nodded with his head and made sounds of approval meaning Yes,! This is pretty! This we’ll keep! Sometimes, we agreed, but sometimes, I didn’t like an image that he liked a lot.

Why am I writing about this on my professional blog? Well. to me, besides having had a great time with my nephew, it was a special moment because he was expressing his feelings about what he found beautiful and what not. He always says what he likes or dislikes, whether it’s a new toy, a new t-shirt, a TV programme, etc., but this was different, it was about photography, about colours, shapes, light!But there was something else why I found his reactions interesting: Although we agreed on some photographs, we mostly disagreed on which were beautiful, or good, or worth keeping and which weren’t. It took me a day or two to make the connection between this and teaching and learning. How often do we choose material and prepare a lesson that we like, but it falls flat on our students. However, it’s also happened to me that I didn’t like a lesson, but at the end, a student walked up to me and thanked me and said it was great and they learned a great deal.
We know this can happen, but it was good that my nephew reminded me of how different opinions can be. In the case of the photographs it didn’t matter so much, I got to keep the ones I liked, but am aware that not everybody will like them. Fine with me. In a teaching context, however, it can mean the difference between a successful and an unsuccessful lesson, so, worth finding out why students liked or disliked a particular lesson.

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