If I came into your school or classroom with a magic wand and said, “Hey, when I wave this thing, every one of your students will do three things with perfect consistency,” what three things would you pick?
What three thing do you wish all students would do — for their own good and for the sake of their mastery?
Here are some of the things teachers list when I ask this question in a workshop or keynote:
- Ask questions when confused
- Treat people with kindness
- Write their name on their work
Here's my next question: Okay, so when's the last time that you explicitly taught students to do that thing?
This question pairs well with the story of John Wooden, one of the winningest coaches in sports, a man who said that his career was that of a teacher. The story goes that while a coach at UCLA, Wooden would always spend the first day of practice, with nationally recruited basketball players in the room with the whole season before their eyes, with a lesson on how to put on their socks and tie their shoes.
Wooden left no lesson to chance. He made no assumptions. Every action that he wanted his players to do well was an action he taught them how to do.
It wasn't all direct instruction for Wooden, of course. He was a good teacher, so he knew his learners needed more than just listening. And so it is that he would meticulously plan out every moment of every practice. From putting their socks and shoes on correctly to passing, dribbling, shooting, and communicating, Wooden taught and designed practice to a degree all his contemporaries likely found absurd.
So take that list you made, that magic wand list, and reflect like this:
When is the last time I taught my students how to identify when they're confused? How to keep track of questions they have while doing homework? How to ask those questions even though it feels awkward and clumsy?
From that reflection, teach.
Over time, we tend to forget those little things that are worth so much. Thank you Dave!
Carol George says
Hey, I love all these informational bits that keep me so excited to teach! I love reading OUT LOUD to my students. They can see how I struggle with pronunciation of unfamiliar words, and when I say, “Hmmm, I don’t know what that word means…” and encourage someone to look it up! They are engaged in listening, and gain reading confidence by seeing that my reading is not perfect. Reading out loud is like a magic wand for many of my Special Education Students! A wand that produces self-confidence and renewed committment to learn!