I've been feeling a bit intimidated by the responsibility of teaching a Nigerien how to work as a therapy aide. It's a daunting task . . . taking six years of higher education, removing it from a classroom, and making it up as you go along. But I've decided to give it a go, and so has B., my new trusty sidekick.
Since I'm trying to get him independent with the things I like least . . . I mean . . . the . . . uh . . . easiest things for him to learn (crutch training, post-amputation rehab, and club-foot clinic), we've started at the beginning . . . or pretty close to it: the foot.
You need to understand that B. grew up in the Nigerien education system . . . which is similar to the American education system in that teachers educate students in a place designated as a school.
We are doing this training in French . . . the first second-language for both of us. We have loads of books in English, and a couple in French. We have side-walk chalk and colored pencils and white-out (lots and lots of white-out!). We have that wonderful built-in anatomy-cheat-sheet, our own bodies. And we have the most important educational tool known to man: laughter (even more laughter than white-out).
On day one of this whole fiasco . . . I mean, would-make-a-really-funny-sitcom . . . uh, adventure . . . no wait, incredible opportunity for both of us to learn something, I pulled out L'Anatomie à Colorier and introduced B. to the bones of the foot. Except they weren't there, so I had to photocopy the pages from another book.
I felt confident, as we sat and colored that, while my techniques were completely out of his context and style of learning, he was going to be an expert on the bones of the foot in no time! I don't care if you're a visual or auditory learner, it's been scientifically proven that every one learns best when kinesthetic learning is involved (okay, so maybe I just made that up, but I'm certain I've heard it somewhere before!).
Once we were done with our coloring pages, I handed B. four different colors of chubby chalk. He stared at the talc stubs in his hand. He blinked at me. 'It's for the wall. We're going to draw the bones of the foot on the wall.' He blinked again. 'Trust me, this will help you learn them!'
He didn't trust me. But being the obedient sidekick that I've hired him to be, he lifted his green chalk to the wall.
'I'm not an artist,' he warned. He wasn't lying.
When that was done (a few times) we sat back at my desk and I handed him bright yellow construction paper. 'Now draw it again.'
When I left for Nigeria, I told him that his homework was to draw and label (CORRECTLY) the bones of the foot. I was certain he thought I was nuts and wouldn't do it.
But when I arrived in the office this morning, there, sitting on top of my books, were his drawings. If stick-figures had feet, these would be them. But they were there. And they were correct.
Wanting to make absolutely sure we could move up the leg and into ligaments and musculo-tendon units, I decided to give him a pop quiz.
I did a quick sketch of the foot, marked what I wanted him to label (which was everything) and handed it to him.
'Talus . . . naviculaire . . . cuneiformes . . .' he began very quickly. 'No . . . yes . . . no.' He started to doubt himself. Forgetting that the cuneiformes are medial and the cuboïd is lateral, I questioned his positioning.
'But the cuneiformes are below the naviculaire!' he said.
'Oh, right . . . of course they are! Keep going.' I tried to back peddle.
But he wasn't convinced he had them on the right side . . . he went back and forth with the white out. I couldn't understand why he was continuing to second (and third, and forth) guess himself.
Feeling pity for the poor boy and reconciling myself to the fact that we would need to continue with the foot, I told him he was right the first time.
He looked at me puzzled, but finished and handed me the paper.
Everything was right . . . except . . . wait . . . where are the proximal phalanges?? He didn't label them . . . why didn't he label them???
'Not all of the phalanges are there. That's why I was so confused. I couldn't tell which one was the first metatarse because they all had only two phalanges!' At least he was nice enough to point out my error in a passive way.
I looked again.
And started to laugh.
Guess I should have done my homework!
Trusty Sidekick: A+
Lousy Teacher: D- (I get extra credit for being cute!)