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Good Teaching, Teachers' Own Words

Are you teaching mastery or speed?

You know the scene, the teacher asks a question and hands shoot up so fast it’s entirely possible the sound barrier is broken. Bums start to jiggle on seats, hands start to wave and bob up and down, and a wee cacophony of “ooh ooh, me, miss, me” begins.

School students learn quickly that the fastest hand up often wins the game, but is that right?

We’ve all seen the kid who shoots his hand up like a rocket but when called for his answer gets it wrong.  Or gives a totally random response. Or who quite simply has nothing.  But, hey, thinks the student, the hand was up first, so that still counts for something, right?

Teachers come up with many ways around this.  Fingers on noses instead of hands in the air; think, pair, share; no hands up at all.  But the kids still find a way to show they got the answer super fast, because they have already learned that fast means good.They learn it from teachers, parents and other kids. First is best.

We need to counter this.

First is not always best. Accuracy is more important than speed. Taking the time to think about the problem so that you can choose an adequate strategy to approach and solve it is a huge skill. Kids need to know that speed develops with mastery and confidence.

So next time you ask your kids a question, reflect on how they answer you and why. Accurate or fast?  Students need to know there’s nothing wrong with getting a wrong answer – it’s the road to learning. But what a shame to get a wrong answer just because you didn’t give yourself time to think properly.

Slow and steady can indeed win the race: the goal is a good answer not just a fast one.


About Save Our Schools NZ

"One needs to be slow to form convictions, but once formed they must be defended against the heaviest odds." Gandhi


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