Teaching vs. Learning

We've had a busy and very fun summer this year and we've met a ton of interesting and great people in our travels.  The inevitable questions come up about "what do you do for work?".... and I always respond with... "I am a teacher".  Which is followed by "Oh.. what do you teach?"  I then go on to explain my grade levels and subjects I teach and the conversation goes on from there.   However, they always reminds me of a conversation I had with my 3 year old niece a few years ago whose innocent question forever changed the way I teach.
Here's the story... I was taking my niece out for the day over the Christmas Break and I had to stop by my school to drop something off.  As we walked in, I explained to her that we were visiting "my school"... her eyes widened and she asked where my classroom was and then she asked "Who's your teacher?"  I laughed and explained that I was the teacher and my students were much bigger than the kids she went to preschool with.  She then asked - "What do you want your students to learn?".  I just about fell over... what a brilliant question from my obviously brilliant niece.  Wow... how was I going to answer her?  I could think of a million things I want my students to learn... 
Normally when we're asked about our jobs, we get asked about a subject and grade level to which we reply "I teach ___________________." But this is just skimming the surface of what we do - saying "I teach Math" or "I teach 8th grade" doesn't really demonstrate the true depth of our jobs.  Teaching isn't just about giving students facts and figures... it's about helping our students become amazing, awesome people who have the tools to learn themselves.
How did my niece change the way I teach?  Well... her sweet question made me think about how I approach each lesson.  Instead of thinking "today I'm going to teach about _____________ and so I need to do ______________.  I think to myself "what do I want my students to learn about __________ and how I can I best encourage that?"  

Oh, by the way... one of the subjects I teach is geography so I answered my niece's question with "I want my students to learn about how amazing Earth is, to take care of our air, the animals, and the plants.  I also want my students to learn about volcanoes, earthquakes and rocks."  She signed and said "Auntie, the only thing rocks are good for is tripping over."   Too funny!!!
Perhaps, you've all already had this great epiphany, but for me it's made my teaching more fun, more engaging, more student focused and actually less work.  I give my students far less information than I used to and focus more on the tools they need to be able to figure out a problem on their own or with a partner, answer a question they have, show them different ways to demonstrate their learning, talk and question more, to think more critically and to put the fun back into my Middle / High school classroom.
So... What do you want your students to learn??
Would love to hear your thoughts!

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  1. What a wonderful question to ponder! I am going to begin my list ASAP! A lot of your list sounds similar to what I would want my students to learn. I love how much we can learn from young minds! :)

  2. I love this! Your list is perfect!


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