Getting the Picture

A picture is worth a thousand words.

There was a time when I really hated that phrase.

That was back when I tried to make a living pedalling articles on the open market and the publications I sold to used that ratio to work out my pay. Unfortunately, I specialised in words.

Of course, whoever coined the saying wasn’t concerned about freelance fees; he or she was talking about education, and on that score I love the phrase because I think it is spot on.

Education seems to feature in my conversations quite a bit these days.

That’s probably because one daughter just graduated from university, the other is just starting, my girlfriend is studying to become a yoga teacher and her son works as a climbing instructor.

I’m also re-reading The Inner Game of Tennis which focuses on teaching techniques, the benefits of relaxed effort and picturing what you want to do instead of trying as hard as you can to do it.

Timothy Gallwey also warns that too much instruction can be worse than too little.

Sal, the yoga instructor, says she has found that to be the case and I know when I try to learn a new pose, I prefer to see what the instructor is doing rather than hear what she has to say.

Gallwey says that would be the case with most new activities.

Of course verbal instruction can be quite valuable as well, especially when it is aimed at a fundamental point that other things build upon.

Sal likes to bring her students’ attention back to their feet and their breath.

Her son, meanwhile, told a story recently that highlights the importance giving simple instructions and then getting out of the way.

The climbing centre where Chris works hired a new instructor and on the first day they worked together, he said Chris was being too nice to the students.

The comment came after Sal’s son helped one of the new guy’s climbers who had been struggling to get a feel for climbing a wall.

The new instructor had been shouting at her to, ‘just get up there,’ but that wasn’t working so Chris decided to give the girl some simple information he hoped would make her more comfortable.

First he asked how she felt with her weight supported by her right hand and her right foot; then how she felt using her right hand and left foot.

Then he shut up. Once the new climber realised she was more balanced and stronger basing moves on opposite hands and feet she was up and away.

Another really interesting thing about words is that they can sometimes be turned into pictures.

Tess, the recent graduate, liked to prepare for her exams by writing out the information she thought she would need on a series of posters.

She made lists, diagrams, charts and other images using colourful markers and then hung the posters on her walls to study.

When the exams rolled around, she says she struggled to remember the things she had only read in books but had no problem picturing the posters and all their contents.

Got the picture?

If not, don’t worry; I’ve only written 550 words, so if you’ve got just over half the picture that would be about right.

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