I learned a lesson recently. It was a hard lesson learned but extremely valuable. If you follow me closely on Facebook, you may know what I’m referring to. I’m not going into detail about it, and I’ve already removed the post for personal reasons. Basically I spoke before having all the facts. I said nothing wrong, but still spoke, perhaps, too hastily. It was, admittedly, publicly embarrassing, but the lesson learned was this: get all the facts first. A valuable lesson learned.
This is, of course, an educational blog, so naturally I’m going to bring this back to education. There’s a lot of reasons in teaching when we really need to wait until all facts come in. A student being late to class should never be punished, especially since you didn’t know that their water got shut off that morning while they were taking a shower, or that their car broke down, or whatever. That kid acting out? Do you know all the facts before assuming that he or she is a problem child. Maybe that kid has it rough at home, or maybe you are the only one who will give them attention. You just don’t know. Principals, coming in for an observation twice a year doesn’t give you a good enough snapshot of that classroom. You don’t have all the facts about that classroom because you haven’t spent enough time in that classroom. (Teachers, don’t be afraid of principals coming to your room. Welcome them in and make them part of the lesson/learning. Build a relationship with your principal and it won’t be as nerve racking when they come by for a walk through.)
With our kids, we should instill this lesson when they approach learning. If you teach kids to find answers only, I think the learning stops once they get an answer, right or wrong. If we teach kids to stop exploring or searching only when they have all the facts? Well that could go on for days.
See learning is about discovery. I discovered, through my lesson, that I may have a tendency to speak out of haste on issues that I’m really passionate about. That’s speaking from emotion, not necessarily from a reflective and patient heart. But I also discovered that I’m passionate about social justice and making sure what’s right is praised and what’s wrong is brought to justice. I discovered all these things, after more facts were presented and discussing this with friends and family. I learned. I discovered.
What will your kids discover when you tell them to only stop when they have all the facts? How deep will their learning go? What new things about the world and themselves will they explore?
I’m teaching science to the third graders at my school. It’s going great. I created an opportunity for students to explore ecosystems. With exploration, I’m not sure students should ever stop. Obviously, they will arrive at some explanations for their explorations, but do they really have all the facts? Should they stop at the first explanation?
If they learn that birds like nesting in the trees in their backyard, that’s great, but why? Is it because of the type of birds? The trees? The location? The time of year? Is it the food that is around for the bird? Is it the resources that bird has to build strong, sturdy nests for its little babies? How many birds? I got questions. Questions lead to discovery, and discovery is what learning is about.
And not just my questions, but their own. If I asks a question for them, it becomes about what I want them to do, not what they want to discover for themselves. Teachers, one of the best things you can do is teach your kids to be curious, to keep asking questions, and to keep searching for explanations. That’s how we get kids learning and keep kids learning.
So keep digging. Then dig deeper. Eventually you’ll find buried treasure. Not that facts are the priceless treasure, but what you and your students discover and learn will be worth more than gold.