Teaching/Learning Lexicon: “Explain” and “Guide”

Summary: This post extends the “Lexicon” of teaching and learning introduced 8/23/11. It may be useful to review that post before diving into what follows…..

Here be the introductory paragraph from the 8/23/11 post, which sets the groundwork for this “Lexicon”:

“More by whimsy at first, but later by design, a number of years ago I began examining the derivations of words such as “teach”, and “learn”, and followed their origins into associations themselves derived from my experience teaching, and from what I have read and discussed with others.  The result is a modest and idiosyncratic “lexicon”, nonetheless an expression of a long tradition of teaching, and one by which the conduct of teachers and students – the progress of learning and growth – can be measured. No doubt, the lexicon will be incomplete; some of it may seem as fancy. I, at least, find these definitions useful to remember in this current era of skills testing when there is a danger of missing the forest for the trees.”

The first post of the lexicon explored the derivations of “teach” and of “excite”. The current one delves into “explain” and “guide”. Together I hope the accumulated weavings mirror the psychic interactions between teacher and student.

Gotta say, though, sometimes these musings seem interesting, and sometimes garbage, and sometimes I don’t know what to think about them. Yet, since this is my blog, here they are.

EXPLAIN – From Latin, ex (out of) + planus – level, flat, deriving from flatness, two dimensionality. To render flat or two dimensional “out of” many dimensions; to translate many dimensions into a “plain” accessible to the student. Thus the first step on a journey through many dimensions, or a simplified introduction to a more rich depth. The rendering of a frontier recognizable to the student, from which connections may be bridged into a deeper and more complex understanding of reality. One who explains is a elucidator of scenery, a simplifier temporarily, and by that a shower of the way to deeper meaning, a guide who lays the groundwork for more demanding voyages into multiple dimensions.

GUIDE – from roots akin to the Old English witan, meaning to look after, and a slight variation of the same word, which means to know. A knowledgeable protector, a looker after another’s best interests, which in turn implies a knowledge of surroundings, a knowledge of the one being guided, and a knowledge of the likely interface between the surroundings and the guided. To look after is to take care of, to comfort, and hence in this first instance to insist upon well being, rather than upon the movement from one place to another that we more commonly associate with the word “guide.” A guide is a protector.

Life is process and process implies movement, whether literally or figuratively, and so in the second instance a guide must oversee the travel of his charge. He must encourage the change that he knows must come, and introduce his charge to where he must go in the process of growing; well being implies change. An individual does not always know which way to turn, and so trusts in the knowledge of his guide to help define action for him.

The guide will introduce a path, yet ultimately it will be a route along which the student leads himself. A guide does not so much will a particular direction, but provides a trusted framework and an overture in which others are encouraged to explore, and creates an environment toward which others will react and relate in their own unique ways. Thus a guide is a teacher, and vice versa.

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