The Resistance

In chapter 16 of Steven Brookfield’s book The Skillful teacher he discusses understanding students resistance to learning. I liked his suggestion to use our own autobiographies as learners to understand resistance. I have experience times where I did not want to learn from someone.  I have not even wanted to learn topics I am interested in from someone who pushed me to learn in a way I was not comfortable with, or that I didn’t see as a qualified teacher. Much like Brookfield quotes “Being forced to learn something that I regard as a waste of time, and that is taught by an incompetent to boot, is hardly likely to produce a motivated  state of learning readiness” (Brookfield, 2015, pg. 215) I can think back on a time, not in my formal education, but in a learning on the job activity where I experienced this very thing. I was starting to become a more experienced technician and was in charge of projects. There was a more senior technician working in the shop with me that I did not personally get along with. I did have professional respect for him as there were aspects of the job he was very good at, but our personalities clashed. I felt that he thought time on the job, previous life experience and above all being male made him automatically superior to me. He did not extend professional respect or courtesy to me and due to that I struggled working with him. The situation that occurred was I was trying to troubleshoot an electrical issue on an airplane. I was still novice in the world of troubleshooting I was struggling a little. There was no imminent rush to get this aircraft out of the door so I was taking some time to truly understand the system and what I was doing so that I could be come more proficient next time. I am a person who when I am struggling to learn something  I need to just sit back and think quietly. If someone comes to pounce on me and question me or rush me in this time I become frustrated and extremely resistant to their suggestions. As I was reflecting on the information I had collected about this electrical problem, and was on the cusp of knowing exactly what needed to be done to fix it my colleague burst into our shop and began harassing me about fixing it. He then declared that I needed to come with him and he would show me what needed to be done. I was immediately taken aback and furious, at this point had he even had good ideas I would have had a huge opposition to listening to them. As it turns out he was all talk and no action. He had no understanding of the problem or the systems operation and after I had told him numerous time what needed to be done to fix it he persisted on doing it his way. After sitting watching him flick switches and connect and disconnect connectors with no avail for 15 minutes I got up and started doing what I had originally concluded need to be done while thinking in the shop. As he ridiculed what I was doing, I was steadfast in my resolve and within 5 minutes I had the problem fixed. From this day forward any respect I had for him was gone and I plainly did not like him. Now I would never be rude to a student as this individual was to me, but the part I take away from this is to not jump in and question and “help” someone who appears to be struggling. Figuring out something on your own can be so valuable and satisfying and just because they are not figuring it out in the time I think it should take them, doesn’t mean that they are never going to figure it out.

Brookfield, S. (2015) The Skillful Teacher: On Technique, Trust and Responsiveness in the Classroom. 3rd ed. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass


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