In an earlier blog entry (Shhh, I’m listening to my kids – June 21) I wrote that as parents we should all take the time to listen to our kids. While this may seem like an obvious thing to do, this is not always the case – particularly when we get an answer we didn’t expect. This is a lesson I learned early in my teaching career.
As adults we spend a lot of our time speaking to our children. After all, we have the benefit of a lifetime of experiences and our hope is that our children can benefit from the lessons that we have already learned. (This is especially true for teachers since we go to school to learn how to teach.) In the past, I believed that I could anticipate every possible response to a question I asked.
Then, one day, I had a life-altering lesson taught to me by one of my third grade students. When I received an answer to a question that was different than what I had anticipated, I didn’t immediately provide the “correct” answer. Instead, I stopped and told the student, “I don’t understand. Can you explain your answer to me?” Then he did. He had interpreted the question differently – yet correctly. His response was not only relevant, but creative and reflected the use of his background knowledge, which allowed him to make significant inferences. I was able to realize this all because I didn’t immediately assume (there’s that word) that I was right and he was wrong.
I believe the lesson I learned from that eight-year-old student has made me a better teacher. I always try to remember to offer the children an opportunity to explain their answers to me. Sometimes they’re right and sometimes they’re not, but the important thing is that they have the opportunity to be heard.