Thursday, July 22, 2021

It's The Thinking That Matters

The kids had queued up to take turns on our impromptu "diving board." As they waited, they talked.

"I've five-years-old."

"I'm five too!"

"Me too!"

I chimed in, "Me too!"

"You're not five, Teacher Tom!"

"How do you know?"

"I can look at you and you're a grown-up."

"Yes, a five-year-old grown-up."

"Grown-ups aren't five-years-old."

There was a discussion about the age that marks adulthood. Some of them thought it started when one became a teenager. Others thought it must be older, based on the teenagers they knew. One boy finally declared the dividing line to be 18.

"You're a baby, Teacher Tom!" It wasn't meant as an insult, but rather as a joke in the same vein as my claim to be five.

"I am a baby," I answered, "I can even do baby talk: goo-goo, gaa-gaa."

"You're a little baby!"

"Pick me up," I said, receiving laughter for the absurdity.

A child took it to the next level, "You're so little that you're still in your mommy's tummy!"

I feigned deep thought, "Hmm, that would be pretty cozy. I think I would like being in a mommy's tummy."

"Me too!"

"I don't! My mommy eats yucky food. When you're a baby in a tummy you have to eat everything your mommy eats."

"No, that's wrong. Babies drink mommy milk."

"There's no milk on the inside. You have to be outside a mommy to get milk."

"Maybe she drinks milk and then the baby can get it."

There are some adults, I know, who would see it as their job to correct the errors in conversations like these, to teach facts to the children, to disabuse them of their notions. But when you understand that learning and thinking are one and the same, you come to value these kinds of dialogs as rare insights into how children are putting their world together. It's the thinking that matters because that's where learning happens.

The children discussed what they knew about the life of babies in utero. They agreed it would be dark, wet, and snuggly, but the question of how the baby gets nutrition was where they differed. I could have told them about umbilical cords and placentas, but to do so would be to be to interrupt their flow, to force my way into their own process of inquiry. When you understand that learning and thinking are a process, you come to avoid interrupting them with "facts," because the moment you do, you bring an end to the active thinking and replaced it with passive direct instruction. 

"If you're a baby inside a mommy, you have to poop and pee inside your mommy." There was a round of disgust expressed at this thought, then one girl said, "No, that's not right!"

And another girl added, "Yeah, babies are inside of eggs."

"Do they poop inside of the eggs?"

"I guess so."

"And they pee inside of their egg too!"

As they squealed and giggled their revulsion, one boy was thoughtful. "I don't think people are in eggs. Chickens are in eggs."

"Babies are in eggs. Teeny-tiny, little eggs." She showed us with her fingers.

This boy has a newborn at home, "I don't think so because when babies are born they don't have shells. They just come out regular."

"Then where do they poop and pee?"

He thought for a moment, "They poop and pee inside their mommy's tummy, then their mommy poops and pees it out for them."

There was a great deal of nodding as the children thought about it. It's the thinking that matters.


"This book is truly a gift for both parents and teachers alike." ~Angela Hanscom. 
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