Monday, August 30, 2010

What I Learned Today: Thinking, Part Deux

More from William Deresiewicz's article on leadership and solitude, focusing again on thinking:

"I find for myself that my first thought is never my best thought. My first thought is always someone else’s; it’s always what I’ve already heard about the subject, always the conventional wisdom. It’s only by concentrating, sticking to the question, being patient, letting all the parts of my mind come into play, that I arrive at an original idea. 

By giving my brain a chance to make associations, draw connections, take me by surprise. And often even that idea doesn’t turn out to be very good. I need time to think about it, too, to make mistakes and recognize them, to make false starts and correct them, to outlast my impulses, to defeat my desire to declare the job done and move on to the next thing."

My favorite book on Critical Thinking is by Gerald Nosich: Learning to Think Things Through: A Guide to Critical Thinking Across the Curriculum, because it includes this simple definition of critical thinking, something like "Critical thinking is thinking about our thinking in order to improve it."  It has very clear and understandable chapters on the elements and standards of critical thinking, thinking like your discipline, and how to realize that what you learn in school is not just "school stuff."

What Deresiewicz is writing about, seems to me, are some of the things we must do in order to start the process of critical thinking.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

What I Learned Today: Thinking

From a recent lecture at West Point given by William Deresiewicz via my friend Sally:

"Multitasking, in short, is not only not thinking, it impairs your ability to think. Thinking means concentrating on one thing long enough to develop an idea about it. Not learning other people’s ideas, or memorizing a body of information, however much those may sometimes be useful. Developing your own ideas. In short, thinking for yourself. You simply cannot do that in bursts of 20 seconds at a time, constantly interrupted by Facebook messages or Twitter tweets, or fiddling with your iPod, or watching something on YouTube."

Seems like I've got something to say in class this coming week about the busy lives of students and how for brief moment in time, they now have the chance to slow down and think.  I know they don't think they have the time, but I will challenge them just the same.  Just as I challenge myself.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

What I Learned Today: Unlearning

I like the list on What Ed Said regarding what teachers should unlearn.  Here's a couple that I found interesting:

1. Teachers know all the answers
3. Teachers are responsible for the learning.

Regarding #1:  I already know I don't know all the answers, so I'm comfortable saying "I don't know," or "I think this is it," or "I'll get back to you," or even "What do you think the answer is?"

Regarding #3: I think bear some responsibility for creating an environment for learning, and I think I'm responsible to be prepared for the class as much as I can be.  I used to think I was the "Sage on the Stage," but the pressure to make sure students learn was overwhelming, and I never felt ready for class.  I think I'm responsible for coming up with opportunities for students to learn, whether it be in the classroom, in the readings, in papers or projects.

These days, I'm much more living into being the "Guide on the Side."  More about that later.

Monday, August 09, 2010

What I Learned Today: What Makes a Great Teacher?

Here are some characteristics that students (I'm assuming middle school and high school?, but I think this would hold true with adults as well) say make a great teacher.  A great teacher:

  • Knows us personally, our interests and strengths
  • Lets us know who they are as individuals
  • Smiles at us
  • Encourages us to participate in school activities
  • Spends time beyond class time to help us be successful in their class
  • Gives us descriptive feedback on assignments
  • Tells us why
  • Shares how what we learn is connected to real life
  • Apologizes when they make mistakes
  • Gives meaningful work
  • Are energetic, enthusiastic and enjoy their job

Something to keep striving toward.

Monday, August 02, 2010

What I Learned Today: Life Paths

Last week I was interviewed by a former student for a communications class she was currently taking.  I have had an easy going rapport with her, so the interview quickly shifted to a conversation between 2 people.

One of the things she asked me about was how I became interested in social work and in working with others and I remembered going to the nursing home once a month on a Sunday night, how one church we helped start worked with homeless men and women as well as men and women with mental illness.

She made the point that there are different routes people take to work in service to others, because several of her classmates were in social work because they had similar life experiences to many of their clients and they wanted to give back to others, and I became involved because of the example set by my parents.

It was a lot to think about as I headed home that night.