The self-discipline to watch, wait, and coach (TBT Remix)

Do we applaud the process that our learners use to solve a problem or respond to a question?  Do we praise them when they try something different?  Are we promoting and encouraging risk-taking, creativity, and problem-solving?

On our 4th day of cookie baking, AS taught me a couple of really great lessons about learning with my students.  Once again, by popular request, we were making Reese’s peanut butter cup cookies.  We make peanut butter cookie dough, roll it into balls, and cook them in mini muffin pans.  As they come out of the oven, we press mini Reese’s peanut butter cups into the center of the cookies.  Delicious.  My small extended family blazed through 8 dozen in two afternoons.

For the first 4 dozen, I made the batter and rolled the cookies.  Together we pressed the candy into the cookies as they came out of the oven.  No big deal. 

How often do our students watch us do the work to solve the problem or answer the question?

Baking the second 4 dozen was a very different story.  My mother gave AS her very own measuring spoons, spatula, and mini muffin pan that bakes 1 dozen muffins.  Now she had her own pan; she was in charge.  It would have been so much faster for me to have rolled the cookies.  But, no…her pan; her cookies.  Her mantra: “I can do it myself!” 

So, I watched, waited, and coached.  Some of the balls were too small and would have been difficult to press candy into after baking in the oven.  Some were too big and would have blobbed out on the pan during baking.  She fixed most of these problems with a little explaining from me. 

Isn’t this happening sometimes in our classrooms?  It is so much faster and more efficient for the teacher to present the material.  We can get so much more done in the short amount of time we have.  But, how much do the children “get done” or learn?  When efficiency trumps learning, does anyone really have success?  How do we encourage “I can do it myself!”?  How do we find the self-discipline to watch, wait, and coach?

That was the story for the first 2 dozen cookies.  Can you believe that she would alter my recipe?  We cooked our second dozen cookies, and while I was busy pressing the peanut butter cups into my cookies, she decided that Hershey kisses would be just as good or better.  With no prompting (or permission) she created a new (to her) cookie.  Santa left kisses in her stocking and she wanted to use them. 

Does it really matter which method a child uses to solve a problem or answer a question?  Isn’t it okay if they use the lattice method to multiply?  Does it really matter which method is used to find the solution to a system of equations?  Shouldn’t they first find success?  Don’t we want our learners to understand more than one way?  Is our way always the best way?

Was AS pleased with herself and her creativity?  You bet.  Were her cookies just as good as the original recipe?  Sure!  How can you go wrong combining chocolate and peanut butter?

Do we applaud the process that our learners use to solve a problem or respond to a question?  Do we praise them when they try something different?  Are we promoting and encouraging risk-taking, creativity, and problem-solving?

Can we find the self-discipline to be patient while learning is in progress, to watch, wait, and coach?  Can we promote and embrace the “I can do it myself!” attitude?


The self-discipline to watch, wait, and coach was originally published on December 26, 2010.

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