When I decided to become a classroom teacher of young children I was more than a little surprised to discover that I would also need to learn how to teach them to swim. This was several decades ago in Australia, but even today Aussie kids are expected to be ‘drown proofed’ before they leave grade two.
The first task was to help them feel at home and safe in the water. We encouraged them to put their faces in the water, to splash and be splashed, to venture out of their depth but with something to hold onto. As their confidence grew and as they learned about doggy paddle, and a rudimentary stroke, they began to venture into deeper water. Soon they were confident and skilled enough to venture into the deep end without fear of sinking.
It’s a useful analogy. The world outside the school is a pretty big pool and in parts the water is very deep. It’s easy to drown out there. We see some kids who leave school and continue to play in the shallows. Others plunge in fearlessly, take on big challenges, and hopefully have the skills they need to make sure they can swim safely among the bigger fishes.
It’s my belief that if we teach our kids how to think effectively we are giving them the skills they need to negotiate the uncertainties of deep water and the pressures of the tides and currents that will pull them this way and that throughout their lives. Thinking will help keep them safe in the deep end.
I am looking forward to exploring how we can best teach our kids to think in the deep end. I will be sharing my thoughts but I also look forward to hearing the ideas and experiences of others. It is always encouraging to explore with like-minded people, but it is very exciting to find yourself changing your mind about a long held belief because of the power of an alternative argument. I love to be challenged.
So tell me, amid the pressures of each day, in the classroom or in the home, how do you make sure your kids are thinking and not just remembering, are working it out and understanding and not just doing as they are told?