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Laying a Foundation

December 26, 2006

Lay a brick path for your students
leave gaps

When you are first given a student, you will want to establish some basic terms and a framework for your teaching. It is easy to believe that this foundation can be laid thoroughly.

But it cannot. Furthermore, it is best to intentionally leave bricks missing.

It is a teacher trap to attempt to be thorough when laying a foundation; you can waste student attention and teacher resources in the effort. It is better to accept that it will be laid imperfectly and incompletely.

No matter how solid your understanding of what you are teaching, you are still learning and any foundation you lay will necessarily shift as you have insights. Leave room for those insights.

Teaching the fundamentals without including a vision of the destination isolates the fundamentals and distances the student from the purpose of the fundaments. Somewhere in the process of introducing a subject and laying the foundation seek to inspire the student to the destination.

Others have said this more elegantly:

If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up the men to gather wood, divide the work and give orders. Instead, teach them to yearn for the vast and endless sea.

Antoine de Saint-Exupery

If you want your students to walk a path, teach them to yearn then point the way. When needed, place another brick on their path. The moment they stop moving forward, point again at the horizon.

There are many destinations and it does not really matter which one you pick. Simply pick one that inspires. It need not be the same one as yesterday.

Leave empty space your foundation’s path. An inspired student will ask for the brick they need along the way.You will have wisely left empty space in which to place it.

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