Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Just Like Me

"She's just like me!"

We're inclined to think that other people think the way we do, that they believe the same things that we do. While it's true that birds of a feather flock together, it isn't true that they all desire the same worm.  Why is all this metaphoric thinking important?  Teachers and parents constantly assume that what they believe is what children should believe.  We've thought it out.  Right?  How could a reasonable person think otherwise.

Although I'm focused on kids and their development, one need go no further than the editorial page of the local newspaper.  The diversity of opinion in mind-boggling.  People don't just disagree, they have strong negative feelings about those who disagree with them, and they say so.  It is unquestionably human to expect those with whom we have contact to think like we do.

It seems to me that teachers and parents need to take a course in observation and analysis of behavior.  Those who seek to guide young people need to have a clear picture of what a young person is thinking before trying to guide that child.  Research tells us that people use their great powers of awareness to collect data which agrees with their already-held biases.  Consequently, children are not going to be moved unless ideas and opportunities are presented to them in a way that appeals to their world view, not the parent or teacher's.  Adults working with children need to be scientists, not task-masters.

How does this work?  Really, it's easy.  Give a child a task.  See what the child does with the task.  Ask the child to tell you what his or her goals were in completing - or not completing - the task.  Give the child a different task.   Observation and careful listening will begin to complete the picture of that child's goals, values, and motivations.  As one gets to know the child, tasks can be carefully designed to move the child toward desired growth.

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