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Why Not Tell Them When You Can Ask Them?

I once again have to reference my wonderful wife and her way with kids. One of my favorite stories about her and her “bitties” as we call them is when she approached a kindergarten child she had seen occasionally around her school.

The child was being a little mischievous and Katie went right up to him and asked him, “How are you doing Elijah?”  “How did you know my name?” he asked. “It is right there on your forehead!” she exclaimed!” Elijah immediately put his hand over his forehead to block the view! Instant friends were made!

Listening to my wife tell the story I could see how happy she felt. Listening her describe Elijah’s reaction I could actually feel the connection between the two being made. Isn’t modeling that kind of dialogue and conversation a great way to start the journey of learning? Life is about relationships, and my wife established a relationship with a six year old by that was beneficial to both of them. They had fun. They played. They reacted. They learned.  Isn’t that education in a nutshell?

Now this story may not fit exactly into the direction I am going, but I wrote it this was to show a point. There are so many creative ways to get to kids and unlock the natural born curiosity in them. One of the least favorite ways would be to sit them down for long periods of time and tell them what to do. Just writing it seems boring to me. I can’t imagine a more boring way for a child thrust into a new environment to try and be creative and learn than with a stated goal of learning or teaching to the test.

Asking children questions may and does take longer, that is for sure. Some of the answers that come out of their mouths are truly out of left field. That is a good thing. It is then the teacher's’ role as a guide to figure out to make sense of their world and apply it the educational paradigm. That is true teaching. Here is the rub. There are so many programs stuffed down the teachers and students throat in the course of a day that sometimes the kids and teachers don’t have time to sit back and think. Think of that. There isn’t enough time in the day with all that has to be accomplished according to the testing standards, that children don’t get to sit, ponder, walk around, and ask questions.

The great thinkers of our time say that reflective contemplation is one of, if the most important things they do to be able to understand and comprehend, and yet we don’t put a high value on it with our children and the people who teach them.

Robert Pianta one of the country's top childhood experts cautions “there is no evidence whatsoever” that early learning systems are suited to tasks. He goes on to say it closes the gap by about 5%.

We all know to go to Finland for a model school, well most of us anyway. They concentrate with the relationship between teacher and child. Isn’t that why teachers get into the profession in the first place? They know going in it is going to be about children every day!

The Finnish system does not get the kids reading until they are 7 years old. Their motto: the children have heard and listened, have spoken and been spoken too, and have discussed, asked questions bad received answers. Isn’t that learning at its best environment? One study shows a 15% interaction between teacher and students at the preschool level.

Instead of vocabulary and reading, they are talking and listening. They engage the child at a cerebral level without the child knowing it. The Child's own thoughts and word guide the instruction, not some book written by a person who doesn’t even know the child exits.

You want to scare a child in an educational environment?  Start testing them at an early age and point out their mistakes to them at every turn.  Tell them through testing that they aren’t good enough, smart enough, or fluent enough in education based solely on numbers on  a  piece of paper.

You want kids to languish socially? Keep testing them under pressure about something they don’t care about or understand all the while telling them how important it is to do well at whatever it is they are doing.

Written by : Jennifer