I am a father to four amazing kids. I am a principal in a school with 450 kids. I am a former middle school teacher who averaged 150 students per year. I used to coach basketball, volleyball, and track. Through all of these experiences I have learned one very important truth. Nothing can prepare you for life experiences like life experiences. Sometimes you just have to do it.
I had my first child 12 years ago. Upon learning that I would be a dad for the first time I ran to the library and picked up every parenting book I could find. I read about sleep patterns, feeding, and discipline. As a classroom teacher I took four and a half years of college courses to learn all I could about being a highly effective teacher. As a principal I have been to countless leadership seminars and conferences. As a coach and former athlete, I have analyzed game film and read playbooks. Through it all, one thing has remained the same, reading about it was nice, but doing it is what has really prepared me for doing it.
We all know experience matters. It is this belief that has us rewarding veteran teachers with higher salaries than a novice. It is why in college, many athletes are given a “redshirt” year to learn from practice before being used in a starting lineup. It is why as a parent, the relationship I have with my fourth child is so much different from the relationship I had with my first child. Experience matters.
Now don’t get me wrong. Reading about life and reading to learn are key strategies for success, but if we want lasting learning, we have to do learning. When we are teaching a child to walk, talk, or ride his bike, we do not ask them to sit still while we explain the processes to him. We get them experimenting, practicing, and learning through the feedback cycle that experience can give us.
Far too often in our schools, in our attempt to keep students safe, we inadvertently disrupt quality learning experiences. We shelter students from mistakes. We silence their voices. We stop their movement. We want students to hear us tell them how to do life, how to grow, how to improve, without actually letting them do it.
There is an old saying, “The only way to learn science is to do science.” Well the truth is, this is really relevant for all learning. The only way to become a reader is to read. The only way to become a mathematician is to do math. The only way to become a parent is to parent. The only way to become anything is to do something.
This year, in your classroom, spend less time talking, less time modeling, and more time encouraging and facilitating. If you want learning to happen, learning that really lasts, get out of the way and let your kids do what you want them to learn. Lasting learning and education that endures is possible. It’s Like Riding a Bike.
Learn more by checking out Dave’s full site www.schmittou.net. Here you can see his other blog posts, order his book, or learn how he can help you and your school in person.