Teaching Tips

Experientially asking for help

By Ariana Dale    asking-for-help-pic   

Many people have a hard time asking for help, which can turn out to be a major issue for freshman in college or anyone in a new setting. Instead of seeking out guidance we all too often try to brute force our way through things, or flounder until we are forced to either give up or begrudgingly ask for help. Last Friday I ran through an exercise with a class which was designed to teach people to ask for help. Here’s how it works:

First, find a cluster of trees where the trees are anywhere from 5 to 15 feet apart. Tie rope from tree to tree. Make sure that all trees you tie to have two or more offshoots of rope coming from the tree and that it isn’t just tied to a circle of trees. The rope is supposed to create a maze-like feel, but it’s not actually supposed to have an end to it.

After the “maze” is created make sure the group can’t see the maze and blindfold them with bandanas. Lead each individual to the maze and tell them they have 10-15 minutes to find the end of the maze. Also, repeat some of the following phrases multiple times throughout the exercise:

  • “If anyone needs help, just raise your hand and ask for it.”
  • “Raise your hand if you need help and I’ll come to you.”
  • “Does anyone need help?”

If an individual raises their hand and simply says “I need help,” “I’m not sure what to do,” “Can you help me?”  or anything along those lines, without indicating a specific question, take off their blindfold and quietly lead them to the exterior of the maze.

Wait until most people have asked for help and exited the maze, or until time runs out. At that point, have the remaining people remove their blindfolds and exit the maze. Debrief.

Often times when individuals come to this exercise they expect it to make a point about teamwork or communication. What this teaches is that individuals must have the humility and wherewithal to communicate directly with the professor, teacher, or boss, if they need help. If you don’t even know where to get started, simply ask for help; no other question necessary.

Ariana Dale  is the Post Graduate Teaching Intern (PGTI) for the Center for Teaching and Learning (CTL) this year. She graduated in the spring of 2016 with a BS in biology and a creative writing minor.

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