Friday, December 2, 2016

Day 67: Ask Jane

I had to revise my warm-up three times today because it was, apparently, too confusing.

I ended up with:

I've been wanting my students to work on solving problems, but I seem to be unable to get them there.  The sequence of events goes something like this:

Me: "Here's an interesting question.  Why do you work on it for a while?"
Me: "I don't want to give you any tips because I want to see where you go with this."
Me: "So...get started. Try something."
Students: "We don't know what to do."
Me: "So try something."
Students: "We don't know what to try."
Me: "Try whatever you think may work.  Experiment.  Explore."
Students: "But what if the answer is wrong?"
Me: "Then you've learned something.  Try something else next."
Students: "What should we try?"

I don't blame them for this at all.  There are deep problems with the educational system that praises speed and success on the first try over experimentation and perseverance.

Typing sentences like that make me feel old.

I'm not sure how to push that kind of thinking, how to support it and hope to foster growth mindset with people who think that if they don't get the answer the first time and get it instantly, they are too stupid to breathe.

Yesterday, one of my groups asked me a question about directions.

Students: "Mr. Aion, how are we supposed to solve this?"
Me: "When in doubt, ask Jane." (Note: Student's name is not actually Jane. I'm calling her Jane for the purposes of the post.)
S: "Are you saying we're dumb??"
Me: "No. You're very bright and that's sometimes your problem."
S: "What?"
Me: "Because you're bright, you think that you should instantly understand everything.  You're great at a ton of things.  You're not great at sticking with something until you solve it.  Jane, however, is amazing at working at something until she gets it.  She rarely asks me questions because she prefers to work things out on her own and she knows that she can.  I know that you can do that too, but you don't believe it and so you ask me questions.  When in doubt, ask Jane."

10 years of teaching and I still don't know how to balance support and enabling.

1 comment:

  1. My approach is usually: write down a wrong answer and how someone would get it. Sometimes (and now usually) that works with most students. Bit building that culture definitely takes time.


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