In a comment on my recent post about Motivational Herrings, Adam asked: “What do you mean by this statement, ‘After all, in most situations, the one doing the talking is the one doing the learning.’ I think what you are saying is that students need to be able to articulate the learning in their own voice.”
You got it, Adam. For me, learning has always been about articulation. A perfect example is this blog, where I reflect on what it is that I think I know about teaching and learning. Writing—just like talking—-forces me to think deeply about topics because the act of putting what I know into words that others can understand is inherently challenging. What’s even better is that once I make my thinking transparent, it can be challenged—-and challenged thinking goes through the “refining fires” that lead to true understanding.
What’s unfortunate about schools is that we’re so completely buried in meaningless content that opportunities to talk—-which can be time-consuming, messy affairs—-are pushed aside in an attempt to maintain our “pacing.” I can’t give my kids 30 minutes to think through a concept together—even though I know it’s the way that I learn best—-because I’ve got 647 concepts to get through this year!
You should live inside me sometime and wrestle with the pedagogical tension that I feel on an ordinary day. I’ll watch my kids working on a science lab and be completely jazzed by the new knowledge that they’re building together but completely impatient by the process. In those moments, I’m forced to make painful decisions: Give the kids the answer and stay on a schedule that sees me covering the entire curriculum or let them work out the answer on their own and experience real learning.
More often than not, I end up giving out the answer.
Can you blame me?
Remember, getting through the curriculum is the only thing I’m held accountable for.