With the wife and kids away, I’ve had some quality TeeVee time lately so I decided to start re-watching “The Wire“. As a testament to how great the show is (or how little life I have), I am already mostly through Season 4. I came across this scene again last night. I remember smiling and knodding in a “I know that feeling” sort of way as the student explained to Prezbo how he knew the answer. (Warning: This is an HBO show. The language is bound to put somebody off.)
While we are quick to praise our Special Teacher Powers of Intuition and Observation when dealing with students, we often don’t realize how much we give away as teachers. Our facial expressions, our body language, our non-verbal cues are all picked up by students and this instantaneous and (sometimes) subconscious feedback often guides them through their explanations or presentations. (This, by the way, is not always a bad thing.)
Recently Sam made a conscious effort to stop giving out The Dinks and to teach problem solving:
I tell them that I won’t be of much use to them. That they are going to have to use their wit and wiles to do these problems. That they should ask their partners their questions, that if they really get stuck they should go to another group, and if they really, really get stuck, they can talk to me. Although I won’t be of much use to them.
The results are pretty amazing.
Is being less helpful and not giving out The Dinks a step toward Coaching Heavy? Is this a method that could work with teachers as well as students? I wonder if some of Sam’s lessons from Day One can be applied to teachers, particularly the ones about “learned helplessness”, not underestimating your students/teachers, and making the puzzle of technology integration fun and interesting once external pressures are removed?