By Nick McDaniels – Today, as often occurs, an interaction with my daughter, Charlie, led to some reflection about my teaching practice.
Charlie and I were on the road when she, holding my iPod (yes, I still have an iPod because I don’t have a smartphone), frustrated that she could no longer use the internet because we were away from the wifi at home, asked me, “Daddy, what is the Internet?”
Yikes! “Well…” I said, buying time, “it’s complicated… you see… there is a network of wires, kind of like a web…” In my head I am thinking, “my goodness, WHAT IS THE INTERNET???” But, Charlie cut me off. She said, “Daddy, there are no wires with this iPod.”
She had me there. I backpedaled more: “Well, you see, now signals travel through the air, not with wires…” She was lost. I was lost. When I finished describing what my imagination believes the internet looks like, I asked her if she understood. “Not really,” she said.
This made me reflect about two things: 1) What the heck is the Internet?; and 2) When a student asks me a challenging question, am I always this bad at coming up with an answer that is understandable?
You see, these are the things upon which we as teachers rarely receive valid feedback. I am sure I often give unclear explanations to students and, unless the student asks for clarity, I simply move on.
This is where checking for understanding becomes an extremely valuable habit for a teacher. If the only person who is capable of telling me I gave a bad explanation is a student, I must habitually create time and space for students to let me know I need to try again. Perhaps, I don’t focus on this enough, but I will now, thanks to Charlie and the Internet.