Let Your Students Think

Early in my teaching career I noticed a certain struggle with most of my students. I thought the problem was theirs, and I couldn't figure out why they had this certain struggle. I finally mentioned this struggle to the school principal. In the most loving way possible she helped me understand that I was the problem, I was creating this struggle in my students.

The problem was that my students didn't know how to think for themselves. When given a math problem, they didn't know how to start. Essentially they would give up or ask for help. And when they asked for help, guess what I did, I told them how to do it. This is what a good teacher does, right? Wrong! A good teacher does not tell students what to do. A good teacher gives guidance and direction, but does not tell. A good teacher judges the frustration level of the student and lets the student struggle without reaching their breaking point.

In a math class, a teacher who tells students what to do often starts sentences with, "Just do this" or "First do this, then this, then this." or " Here, let me just show you, give me your pencil." A good teacher who does not tell will start sentences in a math class like this, "What do you know?" "What do you not know?" "What is the question asking?" "How do you think you should start the problem?" "What do you think the next step is?" A good teacher asks questions to the students and let's them think. The more your students think to solve problems, the better math students they will be.

A good teacher knows how to push their students without causing them to reach their breaking point. Every student's breaking point is different and you have to know your students. When you sense that they are reaching their breaking point, have them take a break. You may need to give them a little more direction, but do not give in and tell students what to do.

Teaching like this takes a great deal of patience on the part of the teacher.  You may think that you do not have the time to teach like this. You actually don't have the time NOT to teach like this. You may have to put forth more time at first. However, your students will require less review, and in a few months they will be less needy.  They will learn to think for themselves and be less dependent on you as the teacher.

Let your students think and they will thank you later.

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