Thursday, January 23, 2014

Do We Teach Like Dogs or Like Cats?

I stumbled across a post on Larry Ferlazzo's blog entitled  "Do We Teach Like Dogs or Like Cats?"  I was intrigued about the topic and chuckled as I watched the short video about cats and dogs. Click here to watch the one minute video.
I started to reflect a bit on the question: do we teach like a dog or cat? and I realized that just last week while volunteering with a group of teenagers I had a first hand opportunity to see the effects of being taught like a cat.
We were all asked to help with a rather mundane chore.  The directions that were given were simple: "Take these items and put them in a box. You can find the boxes out back."  Easy to follow directions, but I soon found out the directions lacked purpose and clarity.
As we began to fill the boxes, we were corrected many times over: Wrong box!  Don't fill the box so full!  Don't put the box there! Or there! Make sure you stack the boxes this way, not that way! By the end of the day the teenagers were so confused and annoyed that they feared asking any question. We felt dejected and bruised, much like the cat that tumbled down the stairs.  I began to wonder if any of the teenagers would ever volunteer again and I left the volunteer session feeling sad about the experience inflicted upon those young adults.
Reflecting on my teaching I thought about the few times that I have taught like that mother cat, pushing the students down the proverbial stairs by telling them to complete a task without providing a why or a how.  
But then I thought about all the times that I sat at the bottom of the stairs like the mother dog, encouraging and scaffolding my students down the stairs and greeting them with a celebration when they finally arrived.  
Yes, the cat's way is easier and quicker, but the dog's way is more effective!  I don't know about you but teaching like a dog is my preferred way!

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