Friday, November 10, 2017

"You Just Teach Silly Things"

He said, "Teacher Tom, you should teach us things. You never teach us anything, just silly things."

I answered, "What do you mean? I teach you stuff all the time."

"No, you don't. You just teach us silly things."

"Okay, so what do you want me to teach you about?"

"I don't know."

This is a boy who enjoys knowing things. He has previously informed us that he knows everything about spiders, likewise volcanoes, and has followed that up by lecturing us with his impressive store of knowledge. Every preschool classroom has children like this, those who pursue their narrow passions, absorbing everything they can comprehend through the repeated watching of videos and library books and asking questions. It's self-directed learning at its most obvious. 

Of course, every child is in the process of learning "everything" about something, it's just that their passions don't always fall so nicely into one of the "academic" categories like biology or geology. Some, for instance, might be going deep on their friendship skills or drawing the perfect butterfly or Star Wars. And some simply aren't specialists in life, at least not yet, opting instead, as my own daughter did to be more of a generalist, dabbling in lots of different pots, exploring the breadth of the world instead of its depth. That's also what self-directed learning is about.

I said, "Okay, how about I teach you everything about trees?"


"Then I could teach you everything about buildings."


"What about cheetahs?"

"No." By now he was grinning as if he has suddenly understood a joke I was telling, as if he somehow realized that it was up to him, not me, to pick the subject, and that I was being silly yet again in even suggesting otherwise.

"Tell you what, when you think of something you want me to teach you, just tell me and I'll teach you."

"No, I'll teach me! You just teach silly things." 

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