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A Lesson in Wordless Pedagogy

To teach someone well, you have to be able to put yourself in that person’s mental place, because they are not you and don’t have the same assumptions and knowledge about the world that you do. I had a  good example of this yesterday.

I was on Skype talking with a two-year old. To amuse her, I often either imitate her or do something stupid. Yesterday I put my finger to my lips and waggled them while saying bbbbbbbbb, thus emitting the immensely funny bbbbbl bbbbbbl bbbbbbl sound. (What is it called when you put your finger on your lips and move it up and down, making noise?)

So she put her finger on her lips and waggled them too, and looked bemused when there was no sound.

Then I realized that she didn’t understand that [I made the sound] and [my finger modified it]. So I repeated the action as follows: First I made the sound bbbbbbbbb for about five seconds without waggling my lips. Then, while continuing to make the sound, I began to waggle my lips, and the sound transformed into bbbbbbl bbbbbbl bbbbbbl.

She immediately caught on and first made the sound, then modified it. In no time she was making the sound and modifying it simultaneously.

If someone doesn’t understand you, put yourself in their position.

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