Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Window Streaks and Learning

Early in my marriage, my wife and I would infrequently haul out rolls of paper towel and window spray for the detestable work of washing windows.  One of us worked on the outside and the other from in the house.
Inevitably, one of us would tap in the window and point to a streak or spot that the other had missed.  The trouble was that the person with the spot or streak couldn’t see it.  We simply needed to trust each other’s eyes, follow the pointing finger, reapply the spray and wipe a bit longer.  
At times the work leads to laughter, sometimes not.
Just this week I relearned the wisdom of this lesson again, twice: once in my classroom, once in another venue. Both reminded me of how much I need to continue learning.
The classroom application came in a class in which I had been practicing a concept that I had been teaching the students for over two weeks and which would be on an up and coming test.  Though the students could work magic with the concept in a closed context (a school context), they, without realizing it, were lost to do so in a real-life situation.  
I could see the spots on their side of the glass, but they could not.  Their vision for the concept was limited.
One student asked me when we could use this concept in everyday life.  Having shared this at the beginning of the teaching two weeks earlier, I reminded and restated the example. The class looked at me and nodded, remembering that the discussion had taken place, but that was all.
They could see the spots on my side of the glass, but I could not. I had not taught the full use of the concept.
Nodding at myself, I took a step back and asked how the class would feel about going back to the beginning, building an assortment of scenarios in which we could use what I was teaching them, breaking up into groups to practice it, and then speeding up the question and response time so they could master it.
The energy level of the room told me that the answer was yes.  The smiles told me that I had found the spot on my side of the glass and washed it away.
Together we practiced, checking in with each other.  My job was to keep sharing scenarios that were real and relative to my students.  The students’ job was to practice hard and let me know how their understanding was growing.
In the end, we could all see better.  Our window was clean.

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