"I like doing it that way" is not good enough #28daysofwriting
This morning in Edmonton I'll be giving a keynote made up almost entirely of musical metaphors for educators. I've only given the talk once, but it proved particularly powerful with my group of Swedish educators at the time, because you don't need to speak great English to understand the lessons we can learn for our own classrooms.
In the excerpt above, young pianist David Kadouch gets pushed by pianist Daniel Baremboim. In fact, he gets a pretty hard time when he changes the dynamic - when he plays an E flat note louder than the pianissimo (super quiet) the composer asked for. When asked why he was doing it the young Kadouch replies: "Because I like it". Baremboim is not impressed:
"I'm very sorry, with all due respect, it's not good enough.
"If you had thought of a good reason... I would have said 'chapeau'. But "I like it" is not good enough.
I'm not trying to compare what you're trying to do with the way I think it should go. I'm trying to help you achieve more of what you want to achieve yourself, so that's why it's important that I know why."
Baremboim points out that, because the student has not thought of the reason he is playing something in a certain way, he cannot justify playing it that way.
When I think of teachers' practice, I hit the same kind of conversation daily. I'm no Baremboim of teaching, but I can ask "Why" to find out why a teacher thinks that planning or teaching in a certain way is the best way of achieving what they want to achieve. Knowing the why, we can then both work together to ascertain if, from the world of teaching and learning savvy that we can access, the chosen path is really the best one at all.
This is the essence of design thinking. We design (take time to consider each element of) our thinking (we actually think through for ourselves; don't just assume that the first answer is the right one).
Alas, most days the initial response is more or less what Kadouch says: "Because I like doing it that way; Because I've always done it that way; Because I saw someone else do it that way." None of these answers is good enough.
There's no care, no design, no thinking.
Here are some simple "Whys" where "because I like it" isn't good enough. And the resultant conversation might help open up some better learning in any classroom:
- Why do you start a lesson with a teacher's voice?
- When people are talking why do you keep going?
- When students are clearly producing pretty but shallow work, why do you let them give the presentation?
- When that kid wants to make a movie again, why do you let them?
- Why do you, and not your students, choose the resources and activities that they will undertake each and every hour they're with you?
- Why do you assume that student-led learning of content will lead to students 'getting through' less content than if you stand and deliver it?
- Why do you think maths students cannot undertake student-led projects as effectively as in social studies?