I had always expected my students to learn. I provided them with strategies to learn. However, I had not taught them what it meant to learn. I had been relying on an assumption that learning was what happened at school, and since we all knew that, there was no need to learn about learning itself. After all, we had all been learning our entire lives.
I have long understood that it is not prudent to assume. There's a crude joke about that; it holds some truth within it, but I won't be repeating it here. Assumptions are, for the most part, worthless. They are devoid of reality and full of gullibility. Regardless, we tend to do a lot of assuming.
That said, assumptions about learning is probably not the reason our youth do not learn the material we present. A lack of understanding the meaning of learning is more likely the culprit. When students do not understand that learning is wrestling with material - that learning is a struggle with resistance from peers, that learning is never supposed to be easy - when students do not understand these, they tend to throw up the white flag way too early in the process.
In Steve Wyborney's book, The Writing on the Classroom Wall, he outlines this concept in the very first chapter - The Hole in Our Conversation and the Space on Our Wall.
Sometimes we find ideas that conflict with each other. Recognizing those conflicts is another way of making a connection. Not all connections fit together smoothly. Sometimes the connections don't seem to make sense.
When we struggle to make connections that do not seem to make sense, we are on the brink of powerful learning. Those moments of dissonance are especially important because they call us to deeper questions and stronger learning. So instead of rejecting connections that don't seem to make sense, let's prize those connections.
I learned that there is great power in letting opportunities linger. Allowing opportunities to linger invites wonder and insight.
But Wyborney is not talking about the wait time that follows a question to the student body. He's talking about leaving a concept posted for days or weeks in order to let it sink in - in order for students to continue to apply it to their problem-solving and to make connections with so many other things. Those connections tend to be little self discoveries - the magical nuances of deeper learning. As a teacher, it is not always to their benefit for me to provide all of the resources and guidance that students need. This year, I have even told students that not only will I not provide them with the answer, but that I may not always provide the question either.
I believe the students also sensed that, while I was going to point out some examples of connections, I wasn't going to make all of the connections for them. Learning is not solely about discovering connections other people have made. It is much more than that. It is about reaching for and establishing you own connections.