As an instructional coach, I would travel from school to school working with different teachers every week. While I would visit the same sites repeatedly, I would use my navigation system to find them initially. After a couple of months though, I noticed that I still needed directions to get to some of the same schools I had gone to several times. I thought this was silly of me, but then I started to wonder why this was happening.
It turns out that I wasn’t really paying attention to what was happening, or even attending to what was around me. I began to relate this to teaching. If we simply give students step-by-step instructions and they just follow along, without attending to details such as why they’re doing those steps and why they work, they will likely never become independent in mathematical thinking.
This led me to think about other GPS-type relationships in teaching and I had a major shift in how I think about what we do when we teach children.
Imagine you are giving someone directions to where you are. The first question you would need to ask them is: where are you? That is the only way you will be able to help them. If your directions do not begin at the place where they are at, they will have to first find their own way to your starting point or some other point within your directions.
If we are hoping to help our children come to a destination in knowledge, shouldn’t our first question about them be the same? Where are you? Where can we start? This information can lead a teacher into developing lessons that meet a student where they are rather than hoping they will be able to find a point along the path that they can jump in and get on course. As I have been working with students at AIMS, this point has become more and more real to me. How do you as a teacher find ways to see where your students are before working with them?