Whitewater Wingin’ It

305270_980527014051_1028088177_nIn “The Skillful Teacher”, Stephen Brookfield uses the metaphor of whitewater rafting to describe what teaching is like; still and turbulent, reflective and full of action.

I found this incredibly interesting, due to my personal experience with whitewater rafting.  It happened about 10 years ago.  Other important information: I learned how to swim… last year.

So I was up in Lytton with a group of friends, camping and going rafting.  I don’t think any of them knew that I couldn’t swim.  None of the guides asked.  I kept my mouth shut and went along with everything.

This story does not get as exciting as you would think; I did not fall in, I did not have to be rescued, I did not drown.  But, I learned a lot.

When the going gets rough, keep paddling.  You will get through it.

If you feel yourself getting bounced out of the raft (which did happen), find a lifeline and grab it.

When it is calm, reflect and prepare – and enjoy it!  Look for wildlife, laugh with your raftmates, learn from the guide by asking questions!

Is this like teaching?  I think so.  Turbulence is where we learn; without challenge there is no growth.

And just like teaching – I was able to ‘wing it’ and survive, but I would feel a lot more confident now, because I can swim.  If I were to get dumped out of the raft, I could fall back on my training to keep me afloat until I could get back in the boat.  This is the piece that really got me; in order to be a skilled practitioner, it is key that I continue to seek out learning and training to be better prepared when turbulence hits.

The Skillful Teacher


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