Pedagogy v Andragogy

By Joyce Matthews

Last week I attended a gin tasting event. The next day I participated in Street Wisdom. The first was chosen for me, the second I opted into.

The gin tasting was in a bare room, decorated with the Distiller’s posters and paraphernalia. On a table at the front sat the resources they had made – a plethora of handouts and four bottles of gin before a stand-alone screen. The sage appeared on the stage, introduced herself and proceeded to talk at us for the next hour. Told everyone about the history, the process, the workers, her choices. She clicked through a power point presentation competing for our attention. The Distiller had selected the gins we would taste, the message she wanted to sell. In detail each essence was explained, sniffed and served, in a way I would never willingly elect.

‘Click onto our website and insert the code you’ve been given for a delicious discount’ she told us as we left.

‘Not blooming likely’ I said to myself.

That afternoon had been one of the most tedious events I had recently endured. Did she really assume every over-eighteen in the room knew nothing already or couldn’t choose for them self? Did she really believe every adult there had no capacity to make decisions or discern how they liked to consume? I was a concoction of bored, frustrated, naughty and amused and her palate never sensed any of my flavours. The Distiller knew nothing about me, wasn’t interested in learning what might compliment my tastes. Who was this for – me or her?

The next day was Street Wisdom, an opportunity I had chosen. In the fresh air, in a pretty town, a beautiful location. Right from the start, nothing was assumed, no prejudgement formation. It was all about expanding horizons, experiences, interpretation, personal navigation. With my new network of adult friends introduced, we began by sharpening our senses. Our guide, the Street Wizard, suggested a range of mind shifting activities. We drew our own frame around each pattern to help us understand, before undertaking a quest to find an answer to the question with which we’d come armed. This was precious uninterrupted time to myself to pay attention.

I wandered across an open courtyard and noticed an old wooden door. Crossing the threshold, I find myself in a place full of strangers where everyone has been a teacher and everyone a learner. I stay a while, listen, watch, participate.

‘She’s a testimony to the unfathomed human capacity to teach, to learn, to grow’ are the words that stick in my head as I become aware it is time for me to go.

A cool debrief with the Wizard after our mini-expedition helped us all to make sense of our own event. Alone, we decided what we’d do when this experience was at an end.

All the time I felt interested, challenged, provoked, but calm and serene I was in total control; nothing was assumed, guessed, imagined or decided for me. I came away inspired, like a new character in a different scene. It was so powerful not to be judged, kept quiet, pinned to a seat compliant. In the three hours it had taken, I’d wandered freely, made decisions, talked when I wanted, noticed more.

The plot, props and set of this encounter were chosen by no one for me. I practised my skills and had no one practise upon me. I regained my identity; I became more of me. A leading character in my own story. What a difference from the day before; a new stage opened up before me.

Now I feel refreshed, confident, full of hope. The guided discovery suits my soul better than the prescribed chore.

And that’s me and I know which one keeps me silenced and which one gives me a voice. Wizard v Distiller – as an adult it’s always my choice.