We Need to Think about What We Think

As I continue to reflect on having the opportunity to listen to Paula Kluth’s wise ideas for roughly 4 hours the other day, I keep coming back to one of her themes about the way students are perceived.

She stressed the need to think about what we think. One story she told was about a student who, every time the teacher told him to listen to her, turned his eyes away from her. The teacher repeatedly moved his chin back so that his eyes looked at her face. Every time, she would say, “Listen to me.” And every time, the student would turn his eyes away.

Kluth approached it this way: Think about what you think. She presented an idea. Perhaps every time this student was being told, “Listen to me,” he was doing just that – not by turning his eyes away, but by pointing his ear toward the teacher. Because the teacher had an idea of what “listening to me” looked like, she could not step back and see that the child was trying to do just that.

We need to think about what we think.

It’s the same with what we might consider a student’s annoying obsession. Can we harness this and celebrate it, instead? Can we “honor” that passion for something rather than treat it as something that needs to be reigned in or eliminated?

We need to think about what we think.

Another “duh” moment was when Kluth asked us to think back to when we were students and put a percent on how much time we spent on task. How many people do you think said 100 %? It was one out of 125. So, why then, do we expect – or demand – our students attend to us or the task 100 % of the time? Maybe they need a doodle break. Maybe they need to put their head down for a little. Maybe they need a couple of minutes to fold a post-it into a box before coming back to us. Is that really so bad?

The consensus at the conference was that we would all be pretty happy with students attending to the work at hand 80 % of the time. I thought to myself I would be happy if some students attended even 60 %. With this mindset, I entered my classroom yesterday resolving not to jump on kids at their first sign of breaking away from full attention. I told myself that they know what the expectations are and will therefore regulate themselves to come back quickly. By and large, this wound up being true. I felt good about myself at dismissal because I didn’t waste too much energy redirecting the class. I focused on the positives and it kept the vibe sunny.

We don’t know everything. We need to think about what we think.


One response to “We Need to Think about What We Think

  1. Another great post that was easy for me to connect to. I use the “think about what you are thinking about” lesson with my grade 8/9 girls volleyball team. We practice well, but game time comes and the wheels fall off. The problem is whats going on between their ears, not what is going on on the court. Shame on me for not putting the same lesson into practice with my own brain and some of my own classroom issues. Thanks for giving me something to reflect on.

    It also made me think about cultural differences we may not know about. I remember when I was teaching on a native reserve in northern Alberta I learned that in the native culture it is disrespectful to look an elder in the eyes. Children would often look at the ground when teachers were talking to them. Many teachers took this as rudeness, when actually it was a sign of respect.

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