By Courtney Dickinson
What are best-in-class teaching tactics you can adopt – as the in-person adult – now that so many schools are converting to remote schooling? It will be tempting for all of us to replicate what we had when we were kids, but educational practices and research has shifted dramatically in the past decades. There are new ways we can best inspire, motivate, and support our children’s learning and growth.
Every day at Acera, I am humbled as I constantly listen and learn from incredible teachers. I share a few of the things I see in practice to parents who will now carry the torch to encourage kids. We want them to keep learning and trying amid a rapid change this spring. Kids’ abilities can grow and you can help them adopt these habits by avoiding “correcting” kids, by asking questions and acting as a coach, and by praising process over products.
Here are some “old school” approaches, and “upgraded practice” alternatives to adopt. The theme? Adopt a growth mindset. Don’t tell your kids they are “right” or “wrong,” and don’t “correct” their work. Instead, encourage them to try and practice, and ask them questions to inspire their thinking.
Old School: Look at my child’s writing and write into their work with corrections.
Upgraded practice: Sit with your child and ask questions, offer suggestions, and avoid “defacing” their work with your writing.
Old School: Praise that sounds like “you are smart!” “You got it right!” “Perfect!” </span
Upgraded Practice: Praise that sounds like “You are working hard!” “You are figuring it out!” “It is great that you keep polishing your work! Your argument / ideas / storyline/ the clarity of your evidence keeps getting clearer!”
Old School: Kids say “I can’t do that. I am not good at math.” Parent empathizes, “Math is hard. I am not very good at it either.”
Upgraded Practice: Parents reply, “You may not be able to solve this, yet!” “You will keep getting better with practice. How can I help?”
Old School: A child is learning to read, and when they read a word incorrectly, the adult states the correct way to read the word, expecting the child to adopt that correction.
Upgraded Practice: When a child incorrectly pronounces a word, encourage with, “Skip that, we can come back” or just share the sound of the part of the word, giving them a chance to try again and integrate that idea, so that they get the reward of figuring it out, rather than feeling like they got it “wrong” and you “knew the answer.” To quote Acera’s excellent lower elementary master teacher Jen Demko, “Never correct a child.”
Old School: Complimenting the product “You got that wrong” “You got that right”
Upgraded Practice: Complimenting their process and persistence “You are working hard to keep trying new approaches!” “You don’t have it, yet, but you will get there!”
Too often, students feel like the purpose of school and assignments is to show what they know, rather than to manifest their schoolwork as a place to practice, and show they can keep improving, learning, and growing. A growth mindset culture and habits can be cultivated in students when they are encouraged and think of themselves as learners not knowers.
We all seek the silver lining in this unprecedented time. Maybe adopting a growth mindset within our families – believing that we can keep growing our abilities through our lives – is one of the good things that can happen during remote schooling this spring?