Lessons Learned From a 9yr Old

I used to love watching “Kids Say the Darndest Things” and marvel at the wit and unique perspective that kids have on life and the world around them. Yesterday, I was reminded that kids don’t just say the darndest things, but they also do the most profound things. My son has recently taken up diving and he had his second lesson yesterday. Thanks to my son, the short video clip above and the week leading up to yesterdays practice, he reminded me of three very important lessons to remember as educators.

Setting SMART goals:

At the age of 9, my son was able to not only set, but obtain a SMART goal without ever reading a piece of educational change literature. He got home from his first practice last week with a big smile on his face because he was able to jump off the 5m platform. To top that, he said that next week he would jump of the 7.5m platform and then finally, the 10m platform. Without effort, he successfully formulated a SMART goal:

Specific – I’m going to jump of the 10m platform.

Measurable – I’m going to succeed at the 7.5m platform and then move up to the 10m platform.

Attainable – I’ve already succeeded at jumping off the 5m platform, that’s half way there.

Relevant – This is diving class, and I have to get used to the heights.

Time-Bound – Im’ jumping off the 10m platform at the next practice.

Don’t put limits on, or restrict learning opportunities:

All week, my son couldn’t stop talking about jumping off the 10m platform this week. Half of me was excited towards his ambition to achieve his goal, while the other half hesitated with reservation that he might not achieve his goal. What if he froze and got scared to jump? I even asked him the question: “Are you sure you want to do this?”

In reflection, I couldn’t help but wonder if my thoughts and actions in some way limited his growth potential or restrict his opportunity to grow. My son had his mind made up that he was going to jump from the 10m platform. It was I that had the hesitation. Is it possible for my son to be influenced by my hesitation?

I immediately made the parallel to the classroom. As educators, how often do our structures, or our own hesitations hinder the learning process? Do our actions and attitudes have unintended negative effects on the learning? My son had no problem experimenting with an aspect of risk and literally take a leap of faith. How can we as educators re-instill a sense of educational risk-taking with our students, especially at the older grades?

Create authentic, engaging and relevant learning tasks:

My son loves the water, but trying to get him to actually swim is like pulling teeth. This week, jumping off the 10m platform created a serendipitous learning opportunity. By the time he hit the water, he was literally in the center of the swimming pool. An excellent opportunity to work on his swimming technique. By the end of his practice, he was getting quite proficient at swimming to the ledge so he could have another opportunity to jump off the platform.

Creating authentic learning opportunities for every child in the classroom is one of the most difficult tasks we are faced with as educators. Bound by time, limited resources, and often excessive learning outcomes, authentic learning for all can seem like an unrealistic goal. With that said, we can create and nurture an environment of creativity and experimentation that may help students discover their own authentic learning opportunities. In the words of Louis Pasteur, “Chance favours the prepared mind.”

Who would have thought that a trip to the pool could be such a learning opportunity?

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