Please start with, “There are 52 cards in the deck …”

Gunny and I were having a conversation recently about the keys to good teaching, and that just because someone really knows a subject, it doesn’t necessarily mean they are great at teaching that subject!

He reminded me that he had a math teacher in high school who was very good at all the higher maths, but he was so good at them that it was hard for him to think and talk in simple enough terms to teach his students.

So, Gunny was saying that he thinks one of the most important keys to being a good teacher is being able to bring a student along from wherever he is in the learning curve of the subject.

This discussion reminded me of the time I decided it was time for me to learn my parents’ favorite game, bridge.  They had tried to teach me, but I just didn’t get it.  So, years later when I decided to give it another try, I went out and bought a book that was going to teach me how to play bridge.  Unfortunately the flaw with the book was that it started at a point that was already too advanced for me!

And that was when I came up with a phrase that I have used many times since in my life.  When someone is going to show or tell me how to do something, I will sometimes say, “Please start with, ‘There are 52 cards in the deck.’!”  Usually the person I have said that to will get a quizzical look on their face, but then I can see a light go on, they get my meaning … please start at the verrrry beginning.

So, next time you are going to tell or show someone how to do something, you might want to remember to start with the equivalent of, “‘There are 52 cards in the deck.”

14 Responses to Please start with, “There are 52 cards in the deck …”

  1. C. Beth says:

    I like that! A good thing to remember when I have young kids too.

  2. Angela says:

    So funny, as I often think of that same math teacher as I am teaching. My husband is a math teacher and swears that I am better at math than I think I am, but “that” teacher effected my belief in my ability tremendously. As a science teacher, I ALWAYS show my students the “poor math student” version, since physics involves so much math. BUT, I like your wording. I will add a note reminding me to start with “52 cards in the deck”.

    Thanks for the reminder!

    • Sandra says:

      Angie — It’s funny that you know just what teacher we were talking about! He has the distinction of teaching the only math class, in high school or college, that Gunny ever struggled with. He has always said he really liked Mr. M as a person and admired his knowledge, but wished he had been better at sharing it!

      I’m glad if my little saying can add another weapon in your teaching arsenal! 🙂

  3. Hilary says:

    A great expression, Sandra. I’m good with knowing there are supposed to be 52 cards. My problem is that I’m rarely playing with a full deck. 😉

    • Sandra says:

      You can always make me smile, Hilary. But I would have to disagree with you “that I’m rarely playing with a full deck”. I would say just the opposite — you seem to me to have an extra large “deck” — with a couple of extra jokers! 🙂

  4. Wait, the two of you talk to each other without me present? That’s not cool.

    • Sandra says:

      Jen — You and Gunny are more alike than I would have ever guessed. You are both great instructors and conversationalists! I’m blessed to get to talk to both of you regularly — I just wish we all lived closer, making family conversations more do-able. 🙂

  5. […] Please start with, “There &#97… […]

    • Sandra says:

      Yoga — You have the distinction of being the most surprising pingback I have ever received. I went to your site and saw this post listed under “Other Yoga Post Sites”! I’m impressed. Confused, but impressed. Thank you! 🙂

  6. Katharine says:

    This lesson was brought home for me a few weeks ago when I tried to explain some overdue fines to a library patron. The conversation ended up taking ten minutes, but it went smoothly once I realized that the speed of my presentation had to match the speed of her comprehension. One… thing… at… a… time… please. Not her fault that she wasn’t up to speed on the info I dish out every day. I felt wonderfully relaxed by the time we were finished, because I didn’t stress out.

    • Sandra says:

      Katherine — I agree. There is nothing more satisfying than to, after initially having trouble explaining something to someone, finally see the look in their eyes when they “get it”.

  7. carlahoag says:

    Joe plays the piano beautifully and years ago I asked him to teach me to play. He started with how a piano is built which was way too complicated for me.

    My sister insists that I can learn to knit but I ran up against the same wall as your bridge experience.

    So, knitting and bridge are 2 things I’ve never learned but maybe someday…

    • Sandra says:

      Carla — Another thing we have in common — Hubby plays the piano too. But Hubby isn’t really a pianist — he inherited his dad’s ability to just sit down and play; he’s never had lessons.

      I’m sorry we don’t live close — we could tackle knitting and bridge together. We still might not learn them, but I know we’d have fun trying! 🙂

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