One of my favorite sayings is an old one – “in learning you will teach, in teaching you will learn.” I think we teachers realize that while we are making a difference in our students lives, they are also making a huge difference in ours! I can definitely say I have learned from kindergarten students, so when I received this fabulous article, I knew it would be a fabulous guest post for TKC, as I think it speaks to so many of us!
*Guest post by Leslie Dahl
In university, my professors taught me well. But none taught me as much nor as well as my students—my kindergarten students!
Here are 7 things my kindergarten students taught me.
1. Learning is fun— play lots.
Children have an amazing ability to make a game out of anything. Even a ‘boring’ task can be fun as a game. Learning is serious business, but that doesn’t mean it cannot be fun.
2. Learning is not a straight line—explore ‘scenic routes’.
Children are naturally curious. Questions pour spontaneously out of their little minds. Too easily preoccupied with curricula and schedules, we miss spontaneous learning opportunities.
Does spontaneity lead to chaotic free-for-all? Not if guided gently and skillfully by open-ended questions that lead to the desired goal. Exciting learning can happen on the ‘scenic route’.
3. It’s alright to be wrong—even if you are the teacher.
A teacher must always be right, right? Authority and control of the class are at stake. Sadly, much energy is wasted trying to be flawless.
I learned from my students that I, the teacher, can be human. Neither respect nor authority is surrendered by vulnerability.
When I relaxed, my students relaxed. No more pressure to perform. We simply enjoyed each other and had fun learning together.
Interestingly, performance and learning increased noticeably—in students and teacher.
4. Mistakes are good—we learn best from mistakes.
Children make lots of mistakes. Sometimes a concept must be rehearsed over and over and over before they get it. Patience and persistence are tested to the max.
As a young teacher this disturbed me. Then I realized many ingenious inventions were discovered by mistake. I learned to welcome not punish mistakes and turn them into laser-focused learning experiences.
Today, thanks to the work of researchers like Dr. Carol Dweck, I understand why this is so effective.
5. There is more than one way to skin a cat—the process is more important than the answer.
Little children have a wild imagination that easily operates outside the box. They love to explore, discover and create new solutions.
We stimulate learning when we acknowledge creative solutions and pay attention to the process rather than the right answer.
6. Learning can be acquired and mastered without memorizing—create neural pathways.
Learning by memorizing is particularly challenging for children with dyslexia and ADHD. My 6 year old grandson, whom I home school, has symptoms of both. This presents an opportunity to test the neural pathway concept to see if it really works.
A neural pathway is how information travels through the nerve cells of the brain. Outcomes are determined by these pathways. They are created by doing things repeatedly.
So, to help my grandson learn basic addition facts, we spend a few minutes daily to ‘walk through’ a set of 10 cards.
Sometimes he counts on his fingers, some times he uses counting blocks—both add the tactile dimension. Processing not memorizing is my objective.
No matter how many he missed, we walk this pathway only once each day. In time (his time, not mine!) a clear trail marked 3 + 2 = 5 is formed. Not only has my grandson learned this basic fact, he has mastered it.
7. Children are ‘masterpieces-in-progress’—be skillful and patient.
Michelangelo, the famous Italian sculptor, shuffled around a rough-hewn block of granite muttering, “A masterpiece is in that stone. I must uncover it for the world to see.”
Not until an image inspired his creative genius did the master apply hammer and chisel.
Asked how he created such amazing pieces, Michelangelo responded, “I simply cut away the stone that hides the masterpiece.”
When we see each students as a unique masterpiece-in-progress our approach to teaching shifts. We unlock their genius rather than impose our agenda.
What lesson have you learned from your students?
Leslie Dahl helps children discover the joy of learning. His experience spans 45 years, 2 cultures (Canadian and Jamaican), preschool through adult, public, private and home school. He is the author of Home School: Why Bother?