Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Learning from Kids

I recently watched the TEDtalk - Adora Svitak: What adults can learn from kids. What an engaging and enlightening talk. Here is a youngster who says it the way it is and we need to listen.

She made me wonder when adults make kids stop trying. I believe we do that. I have had so many of my students who have given up by the time they reach my class. When I try to get them to brainstorm ideas or give suggestions, they feel it is useless. It reminds me of the Charlie Brown cartoons where Lucy holds the ball and every time Charlie Brown goes to kick it, she jerks the ball away. How many times have we done that to our students?

I know that I get frustrated when the administration asks for suggestions and then ignores them and does what it wants anyway. I know how angry I feel and I’m an adult. Imagine how children feel when we treat them the same way!

How many times have students gotten excited about an idea and I start in telling them why something can’t be done? I know a good rationale is that I don’t want to let them fail or get hurt or many other excuses that come up. If I continually shield them from failure or disappointment, am I really teaching them to learn or how not to try? I wonder if it is more my own fear of failure that is keeping me from encouraging others. Am I afraid of how I will look if they fail? The important thing is to learn from this failure and disappointment. I need to teach them that when they face things that don’t work, what are the next steps that need to be taken?

If things don’t work out the way they want, I need to teach persistence and thinking outside the box. If something doesn’t work the traditional way, what untraditional ways are possible? Instead of throwing the negatives in front of these students, why not think of the possibilities? If I am going to be an obstacle in their way of progress, then I need to step aside.

Posted on the Successful Teaching Blog by loonyhiker (successfulteaching at gmail dot com).


Molly said...

Good thoughts and sound thinking.

Perfect Dad said...

Nice article. Two comments:

1) NEVER ask for advice or suggestions you aren't sure you'll take. As you perceive, it makes the other side feel like poop. If you just want brainstorming, or some feedback on your own opinions then just ask for that (message to your administration)

2) Children should be failing very very often. I hate all this business about no-failure. You don't get very far without failing. Fear of failing is one of the main things that keep unsuccessful people back. Failure should be no big deal. As you say, learn and move on. Caveat: You shouldn't be failing at the same thing over and over.

loonyhiker said...

@Perfect Dad I love your comments! If the students are failing at the same thing over and over, maybe it isn't the students' fault at that point.