“The man who can make hard things easy is the educator.” Ralph Waldo Emerson, American writer and philosopher
I am one month into my new training toward becoming a true educator, believe me! – this is NOT your egotistical, suck it up, old-school authoritarian style of teacher training. My mind is reeling with new ideas. I am kicking myself for not having done this before.
I am going to give you the 4 things I wish to God I’d known BEFORE becoming a teacher or a parent. Have mercy on your fellow teachers and parents and pass this along.
1. You address the kid in THEIR world. You can’t teach kids in the wilds of Africa skyscrapers any more than you can teach dealing with poverty to kids who have it all.
Their mental “universe” is theirs alone, unique to their experience. If you want to reach them, be willing to go there. If they live in a video-game world, you had better figure out how to tap into that world, and relate your lessons to it.
EXAMPLE: A new 4 year old joined my Pre-K. He introduced himself to me as The Hulk. I loved it! I knew exactly where to go from there.
By the time handwriting was done for the day, this kid was full-out creating his letters just the way I was teaching them because he was “The Hulk.” I knew that The Hulk was a scientist when he wasn’t big and green. Scientists knew how to write, and write well. So, by golly, he wanted to learn to write well, too!
2. If you want a kid to REMEMBER what you’re teaching them, you have to show them how it applies to THEIR goals and universe. They have to see how it will help them achieve their end game.
EXAMPLE: Before teaching a K handwriting class, I asked my students why they needed to learn handwriting.
The most common answer I got was: You need to take a driver’s test with a pencil to drive those fast cars. Good! – an answer I can USE to give them a reason to do page after page of handwriting drills!
3. If a kid won’t accept a new lesson, find out what old lesson filled the gap.
TV, advertising, friends and family are all common sources for “lessons” in what and how you should think and behave. These lessons are “learned” but their source is often forgotten.
If you want to teach a NEW thought or behavior, get someone to spit out the reason behind their old thought or behavior.
EXAMPLE: I asked my 6-year-old son Hunter, the incessant joker, why he joked non-stop, only to find that when he was little I told him his job was to make me smile and be happy.
That made sense for a 0-3 year old who could make me smile without even trying. But now that he was older, he had translated this in his own mind into being the family and class clown. I had never gone over with him the new things I needed and wanted from him!
4. They have to WANT to grow up. They have to WANT to be an adult.
EXAMPLE: A few months back, Hunter told me he never wanted to grow up and become an adult. Red warning lights went off in my head: my job as a parent is to make him self-sufficient and moral, not create a live-at-home-30-year-old.
Last week I pulled out some ice cream and ate it in bed while watching TV, something I would NEVER have done in front of my son prior to his announcement. And when he came in to my bedroom whining that he wanted to do that, too, I told him, “Sorry – Adult only.”
If I had only known these four things before I started out as a Parent or a Teacher, I would have gone from Good to Great.
It’s never too late, but as youth fades, so does opportunity; Better to have it from the start.