Great teaching is like a bowl of M & Ms…

My wife had book club at our house last night.  When I sat down at the table to get on my laptop this morning there was a bowl of M&Ms sitting on the table that apparently never made it to the living room for her guests.  I just reached in for one more and realized that I had eaten ever one.  Try an experiment–sit in front of bowl of M&Ms and try to eat just one.  Chemists at Mars Candy Company have worked extremely hard at coming up with the perfect recipe that does not leave someone satisfied after just one…or two…or a bowl.  Without boring you about the science of sugars, they have created a recipe that make you want more and be able to eats lots of them without ever feeling satisfied.  Even after a couple of handfuls you still want more.

So I wonder if a student’s experience in school should be more like eating a bowl of M&Ms…

If a teacher creates a unit that allows the students to feel as though they have completely covered the topic, does that lead to the death of new learning on that topic.  I lead tours on root cellars in the 1830’s at Old Sturbridge Village. I have found that when I give a very “complete” tour there are no questions at the end.  I love talking about how people utilized root cellars and the “science” behind them and if I don’t keep myself in check I can go on and on and everyone leaves satisfied.  But when I have to rush through it or if I am short on time and I leave lots of stuff out there are tons of questions and lots of stragglers continuing to ask questions as the next group is entering.  I have also noticed that when I give an “incomplete” tour a lot more people leave saying “I have to try this at home.”

Maybe we shouldn’t be evaluating teachers simply by what their kids can do and know. How about at the end of a unit we ask a single question–Do you want to know more?  I am more interested in that answer than if they know why the Battle of Saratoga is important.  The phrase “life long learner” has had its meaning changed to creating students that “can” learn new things.  We should be graduating students that “want” to learn knew things. Mystery and curiosity is that secret ingredient that should be used in recipes for great units.  They are the ingredients that allow for learning to occur outside of the school.  A student who possesses all of the knowledge, but lacks any curiosity can succeed in the future.  But they will have to fit into a future that is created by our curious students. An intelligent student will know all of the answers, but in order to gain wisdom they must possess the curiosity to ask questions.

This year I need to figure out how to make each unit not end the learning on a topic, but act as a beginning.

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