Today I read a few pages from Peter Johnston’s book, Choice Words. You know this book, right? If not, it is a small, powerful read that can change your teaching life forever. (If you click on the link, you can preview the book online.)
In the excerpt I read, Johnston writes:
Of course, if students need to know something, they shouldn’t be reduced to guessing by their teacher’s assumptions abut what they “should” already know. We often assume that students know things, or know them in particular ways, when they do not (7).
It’s the shouldn’t be reduced to guessing that got me. Then, when I read it again, it was the what they “should” already know. Perhaps it’s partly because it is May, however, I’m getting a little tired of hearing what students “should” know. It could be the exasperation that often comes with the phrase that is pushing my patience.
“They” — the ones in our classrooms who “should” know — are doing the best they can. Parents are sending the best they have. It is our job to meet them at their points of need. It is up to us to figure out their needs and teach into them. It doesn’t matter where we think they “should” be, what matters is we meet them where they are and nudge them to grow as learners.
Later in the paragraph, Johnston quotes Margaret Donaldson:
The better you know something, the more risk there is of behaving egocentrically in relation to your knowledge. Thus, the greater the gap between teacher and learner, the harder teaching becomes (7).
Watch out, I noted in the margin. It is important for us to be aware of this. Just because something seems simple to us, doesn’t mean it is to our students. I need this reminder.
Just because workshop teaching seems as natural to me as breathing in air, it doesn’t mean that it is simple to those new to workshop philosophy. I’ve spent much more than a decade developing my philosophy and honing my practice. I’m reminded of the importance of being a life long learner.
As long as I’m learning something new, I stay humble. I remember how much investment it takes to learn something. It takes time and lots of work ethic. It’s important to remember these things when working with someone who is learning something we already know.
I’m thankful for the reminder today. This is the magic of opening books that are old favorites.