How good am I at answering student questions?

network-782707_960_720.pngBy 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.

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