Most of the learning in life is caught, not taught.
I don't remember where I heard this quote, but it seems to "make sense" in so many contexts.
  • Social scientists often argue that behaviors and attitudes are manipulated and changed by hours of observation. Dialects are a perfect example. A person who spends an extended amount of time in a region of the world often comes back speaking a bit more like those he or she was surrounded by.
  • In the 1975 book Schoolteacher, Dan Lortie's idea of the "apprenticeship of observation" rings true in describing how educators teach in ways similar to the way they were taught as students.
  • Parents learn gestures and vocabulary from their parents.
  • Young basketball players enjoy mimicking the shots and moves of Kobe Bryant.
If learning is so easily caught, the next logical step is to ask ourselves:
Is what we're doing in our classrooms worth catching?
Several related questions come to mind:
  1. Are we modeling to our students that "learning" only involves memorizing facts and formulas, taking notes and studying for tests?
  2. If metacognition and self-assessment are worthy ideals, what are we doing to help this practice rub off on our students?
  3. Is the content we're teaching worth learning or is the textbook driving our instruction?
  4. Do our facial expressions, tone of voice and attitudes towards teaching indicate to our students that the content is interesting or dull and boring?
  5. What are we doing to make each day meaningful and memorable for our students?

A district administrator challenged a group of educators to recall several pop music and American history related questions. Few could answer them all correctly. The same administrator asked the group of educators who their first grade, fifth grade, junior high math and high school science teachers were. Almost everyone answered them correctly. A positive buzz surrounded the room as many lamented on their favorite memories of school and what they learned from each teacher.

Maybe it is worth asking my students a simple question at the end of the semester and see how they respond. What did you learn in this class?