It’s Okay If They Try It Their Way

If a child can’t learn the way we teach, then we must teach the way they learn.

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While at baseball practice Tuesday for my 6 yr. old, I was working with my 10 yr. old on his pitching. He has a strong desire to move from his current position to become a serious shutdown pitcher for his current team. I’m flattered because he knows that I was a pitcher…he’s seen all the newspaper clippings, photos and heard all the stories from my dad. However, when I work with him, the results are disastrous. We have been working for months and no matter what I did or do, he doesn’t seem to be getting any better. Then I realized something, if my son has a passion for something, then he must have his own way of approaching the situation. So, remembering to be swift to listen, I said, “How do you want to pitch?” He went into his wind up, a little awkwardly in my opinion, but threw a perfect strike. The ball had the sweetest rotation with a slight drop at the end. His form was not perfect, by my standards; his approach had no structure…but the results were phenomenal because he had complete ownership of how to demonstrate mastery.

Mind blown, I began to reflect on my teaching when I had a classroom. It was always important to me to present several approaches to solving a math problem, but I would always ask my students after I was finished how they would solve the problem. Sometimes, it wasn’t the way I taught it. They may have taken elements to the approach I provided, but always adapted the solution to the way they would naturally think.

Then I thought about how my daughter would bring home a graded assignment that was flawed according to her teachers because she didn’t put her thinking in the suggested order, but still came to the same conclusion…sometimes in a more insightful manner. I would be completely disturbed, but continued to encourage her to find her own way.

Are we as educators so sold on our instructional processes to where we refuse to listen to our student’s way of thinking? How can we encourage innovation if we don’t allow our students to be creative in how they problem solve?

It’s Ok for my kiddos to try it their way from now on. As a matter of fact, the results might be a little better using their approach as opposed to mine. Valuable lesson learned in meeting my students and my own children where they are.

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