It’s been a long time!
I hope everyone has had a great start to the year.
Although I have been busy this summer keeping up with an active toddler, I have not stopped thinking about the relationship between parenting and teaching.
Here are a few thoughts that I hope will keep you nourished at the start of this school year.
Keep an open heart and mind:
I think that we could solve at least some of the problems in education if people simply slowed down and listened to one another. At times educators are quick to not only judge their students, but also one another without really understanding the full picture. When we do this, we lose out on truly helping our students and/or growing in our understanding as educators.
Quick example from parenting…. I’ve been talking to my twenty-month-old daughter about commas and question marks. When we read together, I point them out and talk to her about the purpose of these marks. She walks around talking about questions marks and ellipses and my heart bursts with pride.
It would not surprise me if someone was judging the above story. I can understand why. With just that small amount of information, it’s easy to think that I am out of mind to be talking about punctuation with someone so young. It’s developmentally inappropriate some of you might be thinking. She should be playing with blocks, singing, dancing and doing twenty-month-old types of things.
Let me now slow down and give you more information.
She actually initiated this punctuation conversation. For some reason, she is obsessed with punctuation and notices it on signs, in books and on TV shows. I am bursting with pride because I want my daughter to be a person of passion. Truthfully I don’t care what her passion is. By the way, when she is not focused on punctuation she is singing and dancing and playing with mud. 🙂
Some of might have changed your mind once you got more information. Some of might still feel the same way but at least you now have a fuller story and can make a more informed opinion.
Now a teaching story….
Last week I was listening in to an informal meeting between a teacher and an administrator. The teacher was expressing concerns about a particular practice that was being talked about in my workshop. Finally, she just asked her principal if what she was presently doing in her classroom was allowed.
The principal gently gave her opinion about the practice but also reminded the teacher that she would never come into her classroom and make a rash judgment. She said that she would watch the students and notice what they were learning or not learning and would meet with her later to ask questions to get further clarification.
I just love this!
This teacher is going to grow and so is this principal because there are no quick judgements being made. Both are willing to keep an open heart and mind and realize that their minds could be changed.
This principal might change her mind by watching the students. She might not but certainly the slowing down and watching will help her better understand and make a more informed opinion.
What does this mean for us as educators? We need to listen more and judge less. This goes for teachers, for coaches, for consultants, and for principals.
We need to do this when we work with students and when we talk with one another..
We need to realize that our initial reaction might be wrong. It might not be but by slowing down and listening you will get the full story and have a more thoughtful opinion.
Offer support but in the end let children do the work
It’s been fun watching my daughter learn new thing. It’s also been really hard to give her the time and space to try things on her own. Just recently she was working on a puzzle and when the piece didn’t fit in, she got frustrated and started crying.
I knew the easy solution was to just put the puzzle in for her. Rather than do it for her I simply said, “Maybe you can turn the piece around to get it in.” She fiddled around with it a bit and finally got it in.
Her face when she did it was priceless. She even said, “Yaya did it!”
Even at 20 months she knows how amazing it feels to work hard and figure something out on your own.
This same idea came up in my teaching the other day. I was working with a child who had trouble coming up with a topic. I offered support to this student by showing him how looking at books can give you ideas for what you can write about and then sent him back to his seat.
He didn’t get much on the page that day . One of the teachers I was working with that day wondered out loud if I should have kept him with me and walked him through the whole process of writing it down.
Although I think there are things I could have done differently in that conference I don’t believe that walking him through the whole process is the answer. Although he would have written more, he would have left that situation feeling as though he needed my help in order to do it (in the same way my daughter would have felt if I simply done the puzzle for him)
Every student in every classroom regardless of skill level should experience that same high that my daughter got when she figured that puzzle out on her own.
It’s a good thought to keep with you as you teach this year….Are you figuring out ways to get every student to do things on his/her own?
As always, I look forward to any and all of your thinking.
Until next time,