Learning and Teaching are Better Together

I’ve long felt that the ideal school is one in which everyone takes on the role of both learning and teacher.

For students, it is incredibly empowering to be able to give to others. I’ve seen students grow so much when they are trusted to teach. And, the process of teaching shows you what you don’t know or different sides of things you think you know. For teachers, it’s good to be learning too to see things in different ways, to learn from each other and from students, and to try new things.

The schools that I’ve most loved being a part of, A Growing Place, The College School, at Williams, and as a teacher at Chewonki Semester School, all had elements of this in which students could give/teach in some way too. In pre-school, I learned how to write my name as a 3 year old from the 5 and 6 year old girls who thought it would be fun to teach me. One of my best educationl experiences was being chosen as an 8th grader to help with the 2cd/3rd grade camping trip. It was so awesome to realize that we could help teach the younger ones and that they were so excited to learn from us. At Williams, each senior math major was required to give a colloquium presentation. I was so proud to have a full crowd of 50+ people and to have some of the freshmen come up after to talk to me, excited to talk more about non-transitive paradoxes. And, as a teacher at Chewonki, my final math exam for my students included them solving a problem in small groups and then teaching that problem/solution to some of their other (non-math) teachers. It’s very different for them to explain an idea line sine curves to us, since they know we understand it already, than to explain it to their English or Art teacher.

If I were to found a school someday it would be on this central principle: that we should all be teachers and all be learners. And, to keep finding ways to change who is taking each role.

So, it was nice to hear Amit reinforce this idea in his first class tonight. From his personal experience, he’s found that it is “better to learn when you are teaching and teach when you are learning.” I agree fully.

Written on October 8, 2014