This morning I learnt….



When we returned yesterday from our few days away, I was elated to find husband had started the decorating.  I have never been involved in decorating; I mean, I’ve “project managed” (husband’s sarcastic phrasing!) the decorating but I’ve never actually really been involved.  Mainly because I have severe asthma and paint fumes send me spiralling into attacks of wheeziness.  But also because I hate it!

Anyway, this time, I managed to persuade husband (who was very against the idea!) that we needed lots of beautiful, ornate wallpaper and just the odd wall painted.  We also managed to find some paint I wasn’t allergic too.  For both of these reasons, I supposed the decent thing for me to do would be to help.

J was already really excited about it; he’d picked his own paint pad out in B&Q last week and was jumping for joy this morning when the two of us joined husband in the task.  We helped with the landing.

J and husband spent ages stirring the paint and investigating the swirly lines the old stair spindle made in the paint; they worked out exactly how to get the right amount of paint on the pad and enjoyed seeing the gloops of paint drop back into the tray.  J enjoyed himself immensely.  He was responsible for a particular part of the wall and chatted away about why he thought the white paint looked blue on top of the plum colour underneath! Husband and I both noted again that he was learning so much and he wasn’t in school sitting yawning his head off behind a desk.

After watching this exchange (I didn’t actually do any painting during this time) I decided it was time for me to get involved.  My learning experience wasn’t nearly as enjoyable or successful as J’s.  First off, I was nervous having never decorated before and that made me scared about – getting the right amount of paint on my pad, dripping it on the floor (even though the carpet is destined for the tip so it doesn’t matter a jot), not painting evenly.  You name it, I was worried about it!

I was so worried that I couldn’t remember which  part of the wall I’d painted (and this was the second coat – husband had done the first yesterday) and ended up missing half of it and covering part of it about 3 times! Husband was cross.

“What they hell is wrong with you?  Start in one corner and work logically.”

This in turn made me cross.  I had spent so much time being smug about how much our little home learner had picked up this morning that I was really in tune to the language and experience of learning.  This attitude, I informed him, wasn’t conducive to me learning anything. Nor was it conducive to me being in a good mood so to “punish” him for shouting at me, I painted him with my paint pad.  Needless to say, I found this hilarious.  He did not.

I then decided to have a go with a paintbrush.  I was just as nervous about this as the last time I had picked up a brush was at school to have a go at copying Van Gogh’s sunflowers.  I remember this vividly because the teacher pointed out that my sunflowers, if they were indeed sunflowers at all, looked wilted and dead.  I’ve been put off art ever since.  But to return to this morning.  Husband informed me that I couldn’t use the paint pad to paint little fiddly bits and would have to use a brush.

“Ok.” I said, as sweetly as I could.  “Is there a prescribed method for doing this too?  I wouldn’t want to be inefficient!”

“Yes.” He replied, my sarcasm flying right across his paint speckled head. “You go up and down in a straight line and you don’t put too much on.”

I am now bored of painting and am perched on the bed writing this.  J and husband are still engrossed in their work; they are currently chatting about the noise the roller makes on the ceiling, why the paint flicks off the roller onto the floor and why the landing looks bigger now it is white rather than plum.

I didn’t mention earlier that, even though I was nervous about decorating due to my school art experience and my never having done it before, I did intentionally wind husband up to see how much of a difference the “teacher’s” attitude might make to learning.  And I found out exactly what I thought I would – when the teacher/facilitator is happy and engaged, the learner is motivated and engaged.  I learnt nothing and was bored silly.  J learnt loads and is still engaged.

If only this happened in schools!