Karate Kid footage kicks lecture into high gear
On Wednesday, November 13, Dr. Kathleen Snook gave a lecture entitled "The Karate Kid on Teaching and Learning" in the Searles Science Building. Snook presented clips from the 1984 movie The Karate Kid and invited audience members to comment on how the film presented the themes of teaching and learning.
Dr. Snook, who has a B.S. from the United States Military Academy, an M.A. in applied mathematics and an Ed.D in teaching and curriculum from Boston University, began the lecture with a series of rhetorical questions. She asked the audience to reflect on the role teachers have in the education process. Where do teachers draw the line between challenging students and discouraging them? Snook then discussed how students can become pro-active participants in their own educations, and how teachers can use strategies to incite intellectual curiosity in their pupils.
Snook augmented her discussion on effective teaching strategies by presenting scenes from The Karate Kid, a 1980s film about a teenager, Daniel, who is bullied by the popular kids at school. He is frustrated by his helplessness, and turns to his Japanese groundskeeper, Mr. Miyagi, for advice. Mr. Miyagi is an old master of martial arts, and offers to teach Daniel karate. The film chronicles how Mr. Miyagi serves as both teacher and mentor to Daniel.
Snook pointed out how Mr. Miyagi's methods sometimes baffle Daniel; every time Daniel asks a question, Miyagi tells Daniel to discover the answer for himself. Daniel initially finds Miyagi's elusive responses to his questions frustrating, but once Daniel discovers the answers for himself, he feels empowered. Snook discussed how effective Miyagi's teaching methods were-Miyagi is essentially reactive, allowing Daniel to be the active participant.
Snook acknowledged how difficult it is as a teacher to determine when to allow students to figure out problems independently and when to intervene. Ultimately, Snook reflected Miyagi's words of advice for teachers: "learn balance."
The lecture was sponsored by the Dan E. Christie Mathematics Lecture Fund in honor of Christie, a Bowdoin alum and a professor of mathematics at the college for 33 years.