Learn from your kids

I have learned more about life, love, and more interesting stuff from my kids and students than in any classroom. When I first became a dad and a teacher, I had adopted a lie by default. The lie was that I was the one with all the answers. I was the teacher. I was the authority. I was the one who should be listened to. This was how I was raised. The teacher teaches. Kids are supposed to remain quiet unless the teacher calls on you to speak. Do you remember raising your had to ask a question or give your answer?

Learning for me as a child was watching and listening. Not that these elements were bad, but were structured through history and tradition as the role the learner would play. No one really questioned that method as far as I could remember. It was not until the development of learning technology that further interactions were encourage. The caveat to this was biology dissecting or art class projects.

Fortunately for me, I was surrounded by seasoned fathers, teachers, and educators. I in comparison fell short of the clout that would label me an expert on anything. However, I wanted to be better. I wanted to have more of an impact on the lives of my children and my students. My goal was to have better results and relationships than the grey-haired dads of old or the teachers with Ph.D.’s. How was I going to accomplish this? Play with them and listen.

I saught for my children and students to challenge me. I wanted them to go outside of our little circle of information and learn something they could teach me. This requires 3 things to see results:

  1. Give them extra points, attention, and or rewards for bringing you information.
  2. Have a humble spirit as a teacher. Be willing to learn or be proven wrong. Dare them to challenge you.
  3. When they rise to the challenge, thank them for making you a better dad or teacher.

This task is definitely aided by the internet and answers being at their fingertips. However, experience, debate, and reading are timeless resources for learning. In order to avoid a default click of the button and regurgitating someone else’s information. I needed for my kids to apply the information or expand on it. I needed to see that they made the data their own.

An example of this for my children was for them to research and learn advanced skills in their area of passion and teach it to me. For my oldest that was to learn something musically that I was unaware of, or to develop a technique that I was unfamiliar with or unable to reproduce. My middle and youngest kids were soccer players. They would bring skills, techniques, drills that would help me as a coach to teach other kids. It worked! They learned. I learned. As a bonus, we grew closer together.

For my students, I wanted to meet them in 3 areas that they would be willing to engage me:

  1. Technology – I gave them extra points on exams or exercises when they would bring me a new app or technology that I was not using, but could be applied to our subject matter.
  2. Battling the teacher – I invited them to challenge and prove me wrong. I also rewarded them for finding me information that strengthened my argument on a matter.
  3. Feelings – I engaged their feelings regardless of if it was for inclusion or a slight rebellion in order for them to become stronger thinkers and young people. We applied an analytical approach to something that they were passionate about. When tied into a topic of discussion, they were all over the idea that the teacher was willing to engage them, listen to them, and would not allow others to ridicule their ideas.

This idea for me was a win-win. Listen to your children and or students. Give them your ears. Challenge them to examine their own ideas. Challenge them to teach you. This will grow your relationship. It will also make you the best teacher or dad possible.


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