Teach & Serve No. 15 – It’s Not What They Think, It’s How They Think

Teach & Serve 

No. 15 * November 10, 2015

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Teach them how to think.

I had a revelation one afternoon when I was talking with a new teacher about the subject he was teaching. This was about half way into my administrative career when I actually think, looking back on it, that I was starting to do a good job. I had some experience and some knowledge and I had a real desire to assist young teachers in their growth in the classroom.

I don’t remember who the teacher was and I don’t remember what subject he taught. I don’t even really remember what the issue was that he was dealing with in his classroom. This is either indicative of the fact that I advised new teachers on any number of different issues they were facing during my time as an administrator or a testimonial to my bad memory… whichever, I do remember the comment I made to him.

“Don’t think of all your students like they love your subject. Hardly any of them are going to major in it in college. They don’t love it like you do.”

This was good advice, I believe – even a broken clock is right twice a day – and cuts to the heart of the matter when speaking about teaching: what’s essential for our students to learn.

gearsFull disclosure: I am an English teacher, not a science, math or world language teacher and I know that there are significant differences in the content of those disciplines. When a student doesn’t master the Petrarchan Sonnet, for example, they are still passed on to the next level of English and likely to do very well in it. When a student doesn’t master the F.O.I.L., math skills could be significantly impaired from this moment forward. I understand variance in content.

But, in my experience, how a student thinks is much more important than what a student thinks.

Has there ever been a time when this statement was truer than the world in which our students live right now? I don’t think so. There is very, very little knowledge that our students don’t have at their instantaneous command. With their phones, they can look up any fact, find an app to solve almost any equation, uncover the secrets of the universe. With their computers, they can do even more.

So, what they think becomes secondary to how they think, how they consider and how they reflect.

It’s not the knowledge teachers impart, not anymore, it’s how they teach their students to consider the knowledge they’re uncovering. This is a crucial shift in the manner in which we approach our subjects and our students. Critical.

Not only are they not likely to major in what was our favorite subject in school and what inspired us to go into teaching in the first place, they’re likely not to even break a sweat accessing the knowledge we fell in love with in the first place.

It’s not what they know, it’s what they do with that knowledge.

In planning lessons, teachers must keep this fact in mind. To ignore this simple fact does students a great disservice.

Lead them to knowledge, yes. Hone their skills for sure. But, please, please, please, teach them what to do with what they learn. Teach them how to think.



Filed under Education, Education Blog, Ignatian Education, Jesuit Education, Teacher, Teacher Blog, Teaching

4 responses to “Teach & Serve No. 15 – It’s Not What They Think, It’s How They Think

  1. Pingback: Teach & Serve No. 16 – The Networked Reality | And There Came a Day...

  2. Pingback: Teach & Serve No. 17 – Giving Thanks for Our Own Gifts | And There Came a Day...

  3. Pingback: Teach & Serve No. 18 – Do the Undone | And There Came a Day...

  4. Pingback: Teach & Serve No. 19 – Your All-Star Cast | And There Came a Day...

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