As we do in our personal lives, we talk and talk. We talk about nothing and everything, especially with our children. I cannot tell you how I get on to a topic or how a conversation actually unfolds with my own children. To be honest I usually talk in circles and make no sense. I do not have to it is my personal life, right?? However, every now and then I wake up in our conversations because one of my kids says something hilarious, ridicules, or insightful. I am sure many of you know the comments that stop you in your tracks. They are the comments that you want to hold on to.
Hold on to the comments and share them with your family and friends. They are important in your child's development and story. Yet, sometimes, these very comments give us insight into the minds of our children and our students. Stepping back and reflecting on some of the comments my children have said to me in our nonsense conversations, I realize how much more I ought to pay attention! Also, I realize how pragmatic our little ones are in their thinking. Of course, there is imagination and excitement, but the meaning behind so many comments is one of realism and sensibility. Our children are making simple sense out of a crazy upside-down world.
Once such example of this is when I was chatting with my wee little monkey about something. I am not sure what, and I am not sure why I even brought up the topic of The Little Mermaid. The only Disney princess she is aware of is Elsa, yet I mumbled something about The Little Mermaid. Stopping mid conversation, she asked me who is The Little Mermaid. Before I could answer, she answered herself with 'the big mermaid's baby'. In that moment I was torn about teaching her who The Little Mermaid is or accepting her answer. A part of me thought every little girl must know about Ariel, but the other part of me thought her answer made sense to both of us. I moved on and accepted her answer.
I share this with you because I think it is a practical lesson for educators to understand when to accept an answer different from what we would expect. Here is a child unsure of something, but in all her wisdom she created a reasonable and sensible answer that is not wrong. She did not read The Little Mermaid, rather, she heard the little mermaid. Without background knowledge she is not aware that I am not referring to a specific person. Instead she believes I am describing a mermaid. She requested information from me about something she did not know. Using what she did know from her background and the context of the conversation, she created an answer that works. It makes sense the little mermaid is the big mermaid's baby.
My job now could be to teach her about The Little Mermaid. This particular conversation took place a few weeks ago, we will not go back and revisit it. It is done. However, we will watch the movie together. My daughter may end up loving Ariel or not caring for the movie, but she will learn The Little Mermaid is the name we use when referring to a very specific thing. She will learn that The Little Mermaid is a singing red-haired mermaid who becomes a princess. She will never think of The Little Mermaid as the big mermaid's baby again. This lesson will be learned through doing (watching a movie) rather than me ever correcting her. Though correction is not wrong, it is not appropriate to this situation.
As a mother, I love the simplicity in her answer as she tries to make sense of the unknown. As a teacher, I am reminded to acknowledge my assumptions and bias when it comes to students' representations of their knowledge and understanding. I am reminded to take a step back and see why they believe something to be true and how they derived at a certain answer. Unlike 2 + 2, most information can be interpreted and relayed differently. We have different experiences than our students. Our job is not to have them think just like us, but to develop their minds to explore the world in which they live. I challenge you to sit back and listen to your students. Reflect on their answers and their comments. Use this insight to shape how you communicate your lessons and your message. Allow your students into the driver seat, you guide them, but let them make the turns and the straightaways.