Wednesday, February 12, 2014

My Favorite Students Ask Me The Most Questions

I try hard to explain every well the first time. I really do. I think most teachers do. It never fails though that someone doesn’t get it the first time. In all honesty I think a number of students don’t get it the first time. On a good day though at least one of them will be willing to admit it and ask me a question. Or a bunch of questions. I love those students!

I used to have a cartoon in my classroom. It showed a class full of students al thinking the same thing. In panel one it was something like “I don’t understand.” In the second panel they are all thinking “Everyone else gets it.” In the third panel they are thinking “I’m not going to ask a question and let others know that I am the only one who doesn’t understand.” Most teachers know that this happens more then they would like. But how do you fix it if you don’t know what the students are not understanding?

Lately I have been blessed with students who will, if not in front of their peers at least in private, ask me for help with a concept. Invariably as we talk one on one I see a better, or at least different, way that I can explain the concept under discussion. Sometimes this results in me doing a bit of review next class. Sometimes it results in me adding to my class slides or notes. Sometimes it results in me writing a new demo. It always results in helping me to learn how to make things more clear to more students.

In computing there always seems to be a different way of doing things. Just think about how many ways there are to do a cut and paste for example. Keyboard shortcuts, mouse clicks, menu options, you get the idea. For me it is logical that there are multiple ways to explain everything. I love computing. I mean I really love it. That means I really want to see my students love it as well. When they ask questions and give me another chance I appreciate it. When they help me discover new ways to make the topic fun, interesting and understandable that is a huge win.

I suppose I could take these questions as a failure on someone’s part. On my part in explanation or the students failure to understand. But I choose to take them as an opportunity to learn more about the topic, about teaching, about understanding and about my students. While it might be great if my explanations were spot on all the time and that students understood it all the first time that is not reality. And besides it would get boring if I did everything the same way all the time.

So spending time during a prep period or after school with a student reviewing a topic is a win-win. It is something I embrace as the best part of my day. I do love learning from my students!


Rob Miles said...

I've never given a course when I haven't learned something from the sessions. And when I do, I'll retire.

Garth said...

Never rely on students to ask questions in class. You need to ask them question in order to test their understanding of a subject. Point to a kid (usually one that is willing to talk in class) and have them attempt to summarize or repeat what you just said. The result can be enlightening. Being lectured to is one of the worst possible methods of learning and that will become very obvious when you start asking directed questions. Lecturing then having the kids do an exercise from the lecture always gets interesting results.