As an educator and a parent, I know for many of us, the most difficult student(s) to teach can easily be our own.
So, for many of you parents, teaching your own students at home, I feel for you. Thankfully, we can learn a few lessons from a kid’s show which featured a blue dog, “Blue,” and the dog’s owner “Steve.” Steve Burns is a modest guy, only a few years younger than myself, and with teaching skills he has helped many more than he realizes.
One of my first points of advice for new teachers,... “Watch Blue’s Clues.”
My advice for parents… “Watch Blue’s Clues.”
What are you there to learn? #1: Wait time. Steve was the master. As he spoke through the camera, intentionally breaking the fourth wall, there were those long pauses. Long pauses.
The dead air involved with wait time is endless! Initially. Then, it gets easier. We see its effectiveness and understand the timing. Allowing our children the comfort of time to actually think before replying. Empowering. Do you have a child who responds before thinking? Yep, you contributed to that immediate response. Time to practice wait time. Next time you ask a question, try to start over in your mind and search for multiple answers in your mind - or count to 10, if you get to 10 before a response. (BTW: If you get to ten, you count too fast!)
#2 play dumb. Then, turn the question around. Sounds simple? Initially, it is excruciatingly difficult!! …And, then it gets easier and becomes fun.
A couple problems we have to overcome:
As parents we like to be smarter than our kids. It can be tough to let this go. Good news: you are smarter. Bad news: Google has you beat. But, teaching our children to learn, think, and know how to find relevant educational experiences, is more important than content knowledge. So it just doesn’t matter how smart you are. Playing a bit dumb, takes us out of the primary learner position and transfers it to… our kids. Amazing.
So before the next time you ask a question verbally, try this once. Keep the question in your head. Then, restart your brain, and contemplate the question and its multiple answers - both right and wrong. Consider the amount of time which passed. Your brain operates much faster without speech, so double the time. Now you have an idea of the time your kids need to process - really process an idea or question. Even in an ongoing dialogue. Yep, it’s really a lot of time.
Blue’s Clues aired on Nickelodeon, with variants on Nick Jr. Also viewable on YouTube.