Since my earliest days as a student, all the way from grade school through grad school, I have had certain teachers object violently to my habit of ‘doodling’ when taking notes. I draw patterns, figures, isolate important facts in elaborate frames. “You’re not paying attention,” these teachers would bellow, “You’re being disrespectful!”
My only defense has been to repeat a truth that I know absolutely, “It’s how I think!” It’s true; the more I draw, the more I retain. Over the years, I came to two conclusions about these confrontations: 1. I simply process material differently. 2. The people who complain are thinking more about themselves than me; they cannot accept the fact that I know myself well enough to know that this works for me; nor can they accept someone whose mind does not function exactly the way they have decided it should (which, I suspect, is exactly the way their own thought processes work).
It’s a shame, of course, that the people who project such narrow outlooks are largely educators, but Paolo Freire identified the ‘banking concept’ of education almost forty years ago in his Pedagogy of the Oppressed. To this day, I’ve met many, many educators who still constantly re-state some form of this: “Education thus becomes an act of depositing, in which the students are the depositories and the teacher is the depositor.” “In the banking concept of education, knowledge is a gift bestowed by those who consider themselves knowledgeable upon those they consider to know nothing. Projecting an absolute ignorance onto others, a characteristic of the ideology of oppression, negates education and knowledge as processes of inquiry. The teacher presents himself to his students as their necessary opposite; by considering their ignorance absolute, he justifies his own existence.”
(I can’t count the times I’ve heard teachers say, condescendingly, “They don’t know how to …!” and, in each instance, I think, “Well? Aren’t you there to help them learn how to…?” )
Recently, the issue about my drawing has re-reared its head; I also draw in meetings, you see. In both instances, I simply asked if the person saw any impairment in how my work was done (there was none), and repeated yet again, “It’s how I think.” I didn’t particularly care for being treated like a student (though I’d never treat my own students that way) as opposed to a colleague who has received honors for my teaching, but I let it go. (Sigh). (It is, however, yet another clear indication of the status that these folks assign to me).
During my two year Excellence In Teaching Fellowship, I was introduced to Howard Gardner’s theory of Multiple Intelligences, which, for various concrete reasons (not the least of which are my experiences in my own classrooms) I heartily embrace. When I take the tests, I consistently score highest in three areas: Visual / Spatial, Bodily / Kinesthetic and Linguistic; my scores are extremely high within all three, and they are all within two or three points of one another. I suspected that the kinesthetic/visual orientation had something to do with my need to enhance language visually, but I never pursued the connection further. I guess I felt that these people were so biased that I would be wasting my time by trying to explain myself, or, if you will, by attempting to educate them. The Banking System, after all, only works in one direction.
Then, I ran across these findings, recently published in Applied Cognitive Psychology, excerpted here:
“If someone is doing a boring task, like listening to a dull telephone conversation, they may start to daydream,” study researcher Professor Jackie Andrade, of the School of Psychology at the University of Plymouth, said in a news release issued by the journal’s publisher. “Daydreaming distracts them from the task, resulting in poorer performance. A simple (secondary) task, like doodling, may be sufficient to stop daydreaming without affecting performance on the main task.”
“In everyday life, Andrade said, doodling “may be something we do because it helps to keep us on track with a boring task, rather than being an unnecessary distraction that we should try to resist doing.”
It’s an even simpler explanation than the visual/kinesthetic orientation, and it makes perfect sense to me. So, to all my former teachers and currently offended colleagues: take note. Of course, these findings do state that I found your classes and meetings to be boring; there’s nothing I can do to help that, except to continue to draw. If you’re willing to think about it, my drawing is, in fact, a form of respect for your words.
There are two blogs today; there’s another below.