Thursday, April 14, 2016
Does It Stick?
We all embrace habits. That is, we do today what we did yesterday, and the day before that, and the year before that. We feel consistent, comfortable, content that what we’re doing is the best way to do it. It’s called the “illusion of knowing” and it’s abundantly clear this political season. Read the letters to the editor in your local newspaper. Folks are convinced that they know the “absolute truth” and that anyone who think differently is hopelessly deluded. It’s almost comical. Yet we, as teachers, have pretty strong habits in the classroom.
It is a well-documented fact that our brains are organized, first and foremost, to repeat over-learned tasks with great proficiency. Thinking is hard, and changing habits or creating new ones is painfully difficult. It’s why I’m having so much trouble getting rid of that “last 10 pounds” that I so want to burn off. If I’m good at anything, snacking has to be at the top of my list.
Over the course of my recent blog entries, I hope I’ve given you cause to rethink some of your favorite routines. Do you need to change? Probably not. Would you benefit from change? Quite likely. Have you changed any routines? Have you created any new and different assignments? Have you oriented your teaching to be more “student thinking” directed with less of a “correct answer” orientation? Are your students reading more?
Once, a very long time ago, I knew a real estate agent who frequently said, “Let’s throw it agains the wall and see if it sticks.” I loved the idea. Why not give a new idea a test and see what happens? Worst case scenario: “…never do that again.” Interestingly, most new ideas are not complete failures. Seldom are they unqualified successes either. Success or failure (relatively speaking), wisdom is the by-product. I”m confident that, like your students, you’ll learn more from your relative failures than you ever could from your familiar routines.