Any teacher or tutor understands that subject knowledge alone does not make you an outstanding teacher.
It is the ability to be able to communicate that knowledge to your ‘audience’ that is, perhaps, even more important. But what does this actually mean, in practice?
Well, of course, it’s partly about all the things you would expect. It means being clear in your instruction. It means approaching topics in a way that will engage students. It’s having the ability to inspire, or at the very least to motivate and support students on their learning journey.
It is all of these things and more. But to teach a child do you need to think like a child too?
Yes, you do.
Engaging students is only part of the challenge
It’s hardly rocket science and it’s certainly not some astounding snippet of new teaching pedagogy to highlight the importance of engagement. However, it is vital that teachers go further than simply ensuring that their lessons have a certain amount of appeal to students.
Of course, there is absolutely nothing wrong with teachers utilising resources that will engage young people. There won’t be an English teacher in the country teaching Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet who hasn’t shown the Baz Luhrmann 90s film update with Leonardo Di Caprio as Romeo to their class. And their students’ understanding, appreciation and grasp of the relevance of Shakespeare in the modern day will be all the better for it.
But selecting suitable resources or planning learning activities that will engage is only part of the challenge.
Think like a child
The way a middle aged person thinks and the way they view the world is very different to somebody in their 20s.
The gulf between the way an adult perceives things and the way a child or a teenager does is absolutely vast. That’s not meant to be patronising towards young people in any way whatsoever. It isn’t a claim that adults should be listened to by children because they are adults and ‘adults know best’.
It could be said that children have a naivety and an innocence, but I’d prefer to say they lack the ‘life experiences’ that only come from being an adult.
So, instead of continually trying to get children to think like adults, teachers need to think like children.
We can learn from thinking like children
It’s also useful to consider how we as adults can learn from thinking like children. There are actually many benefits. Stephen Dubner and Steve Levitt explore these in their book Think like a Freak. As Levitt explains: “I think the beauty of thinking like a child is that sometimes doing things differently and simply and with a kind of joy and triviality leads you to a really special place that as an adult you don’t get to go to very often.”
Children tend not to feel bias. They don’t carry around the baggage of pre-conceptions that many adults do. This is something that should be embraced, and for teachers it is something that can’t afford to be not be ignored.