Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Fostering A Generation of "What if..." Learners

          A “What if...” learner is likely different than what you may be thinking. The single most important thing that educators of all types must understand about our students today is that they are growing up in a world that is much different than the one we were coddled by. By this I mean that these students are exposed to almost unlimited resources at their fingertips. What used to take us hours of research now costs them the effort of pressing and holding a button to simply ask Siri.

How powerful is that? Our students have no limits. Their potential has no ceiling. Just as much as the world surrounding this generation has changed, the children within this generation are going to change the world. However, with that being said, the questions arises as to how we  can prevent their limitless potential from appearing as a simple way to access a means to an end. It is not only the mission, but the responsibility of educators today to encourage, highlight, and ultimately celebrate this within each student. As a teacher, I am constantly searching for ways to communicate curriculum in a manner that will cause my students to ask that powerful question of “What if…”.

Last week, throughout the first week of school, our students at Goodrich School were exposed to several different team-building and class-building activities. Many of these activities posed challenges to the students and ultimately asked them to think outside the box. That was key. Not only were our students seen building dynamic relationships with one another; but they were also allotted the perfect opportunity to ask “What if…” questions. As a teacher, this was simply amazing to witness. I watched in amazement as I learned how each student problem solved and how ALL of my students were comfortable asking and answering “What if…” questions. These young minds are capable of creating and developing fascinating solutions to concrete problems. The challenge for adults is, how to encompass this incredible ability and continue to challenge it both inside the classroom and out.

I have quickly learned from observations of my coworkers that the most efficient way to provide students with these opportunities is to allow them to learn from one another. As Albert Einstein once said, “If you can’t explain it to a six year old, then you don’t understand it well enough yourself”. Take the “six year old” portion out and sub in the word “peer” and you have the basis and the power behind cooperative learning. Last week, I witnessed several of my students ask things such as “What if we tried___ and fix___”. These questions were being asked, answered, and welcomed by each of the groups. My goal for this year is to continue to allow myself to be blown away by my students. To accomplish this I must first challenge myself to think outside the box and create chances for my students to ask “What if…”.

Whatever your role may be in the life of a child, I challenge you to do the same. Allow yourself to be blown away. It is inevitable when these amazing young minds are challenged, tested, and celebrated!   

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