Monday, December 21, 2020

Teacher Tom: The Technology of Speaking With Children So They Can Think

Teacher Tom: The Technology of Speaking With Children So They Can Think
The Technology of Speaking With Children So They Can Think

It was in one of Tom Drummond's classes more than 20 years ago that I first heard about the "technology" of speaking with children so they could think. Tom was explaining the ultimate ineffectiveness of "directive" statements. You know the kind -- "Sit over here," "Stand there," "Pick that up" -- the sorts of adult communications with which most of our childhoods were filled. He then gave us an assignment, which was to simply keep track of the number of directive statements to children we made during a single classroom day. This assignment was simply about ourselves, about listening to our words, practicing using this new technology, not being burdened with the complications of having to make judgments about how the children were responding, just focusing on ourselves and the words we were using, but it was impossible to not notice the immediate impact that it had on my relationship with the young children in my life.

Although, this was my first formal exposure to the "technology" of treating children like fully formed human beings, I'd previously been exposed to this technology "in the wild," so to speak, via our daughter's preschool teacher, with whom I'd been working as a cooperative classroom parent for a couple of years. But, as technology often does for the uninitiated, it had just looked like magic, something Teacher Chris was able to do because she was Teacher Chris. 

One of the goals our classwork was to replace our directive statements with informative ones and it was awkward and unnatural at first. For instance, instead of saying, "Pick up that block," I would try to make the more cumbersome informative statement, "I see a block on the floor and it's clean up time." One of the basic ideas, Tom explained, was that unlike directive statements which tend to shut things down, informative statements create a space in which the kids get to do their own thinking, make their own decisions about their own behavior, instead of merely engaging in the power struggle that inevitably emerges from being bossed around. It made sense to me even while it felt strange and artificial. It was true, I couldn't help but notice, that when I took the time to be informative, children were far less likely to push back, and instead take a beat (which, I've learned means they are taking a moment to process the information you've given them) then pick up that block and put it away. 

I discovered, on my own, the truth of Tom's assertion that the ultimate weakness of relying upon directive statements is CONTINUE READING: Teacher Tom: The Technology of Speaking With Children So They Can Think