The Thinking Teacher Teaches Thinking

As teachers we make literally hundreds of decisions every day. From the mundane “Can I go to the bathroom?” to the more complex “What do I need to teach next and how?” And even the mundane count when you think of it from the child’s point of view. They learn much about themselves from our decisions.
Something is always being learned whether we want it to be or not. Frank Smith in The Book of learning and Forgetting says, “The problem in school is not that many students aren’t learning but what they are learning – They learn to be non-readers or that they are non-spellers or that they can’t do math.” It was only when I moved to Switzerland that I realized that at some point in my life I had learned that learning a second language is hard. This is something that the Swiss don’t learn and I can never forget, even though I wasn’t asked to memorize it.
When we don’t let students struggle and fail before they succeed, they learn that we don’t believe they are capable and they certainly don’t learn how to learn. When we give too much praise at the wrong time they learn not to think, but to find the “right answer”, and sometimes they learn not to trust or value our opinion because they know they did not give their best. They learn to be compliant rather than creative when we do not trust them to learn.
Early in my career my principal, Norm Sam, gave me The Book of Learning and Forgetting by Frank Smith. This book caused me to reflect and come up with a question that I ask myself continuously as I make those hundreds of decisions every day, “What will my student really be learning from this choice or that?” Not what I am teaching or what do I think I am teaching, but what is he really learning from me?
As thinking teachers what are the question you ask that guide your decision making?

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