What Great Teachers Do

As I walked around my children’s classrooms, the walls were papered with new projects. The collective imagination of each class was surpassed only by the ingenious assignment that inspired it. Poems written by pairs of students describing what they had in common and what made them different, a quilt that showed the individual tastes and interests of each child woven together to make one fabric, an interview series between students discovering the likes and dislikes of a new friend in class.
 
Linking many of these exercises was the theme for the school year, “While we may all be different fish, we swim together as a school.”
 
Rather than indoctrinating these children with this important theme, the teachers instead gave them tools that would allow them to discover it’s meaning for themselves. 

It reminded me of something once written by someone who knows a thing or two about discovery.
 
“You cannot teach a man anything; you can only help him find it within himself.”  — Galileo
 
In his day, the idea of how to share what one knew was a matter of life or death. Which is why he shared his evidence of the earth revolving around the sun not as a belief or proven fact but as a point for discussion and careful consideration.
 
It seems rare that we have the time or patience to let people “find it within themselves.”  We present our facts and instantly dismiss others who don’t accept our position.
 
What if instead we asked questions that would allow someone to discover our truths for themselves on their own terms?
 
VICE news featured a former National Parks director who was spending both his time and money from retirement going around the country talking to outdoorsman.  Accepting that many in his audience are skeptical of climate change, he simply asked them questions about what THEY saw changing in their experiences hunting, fishing or spending time outdoors.  The result was an opening to a constructive conversation about climate change
 
Good teachers, whether in grade school or the school of life, recognize that it’s not about having all the answers, but in being able to ask the right questions. *******

 
Teaching as discovery fueled our development of Your American Dream Score.  We’re very excited to announce that our partner PBS Learning has just released resources based on this tool that help teachers engage students on questions around social mobility and civic engagement.  If you or someone you know is interested in using these resources, click on the links below.

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