The Corona homeschooling is an exciting experiment for parents and kids. I was listening to our neighbors discussing the problems they experienced. They were doing shifts: each parent did some of the work with the kids, the wife more than the man though, not sure why. For whatever reason, they found educating their own kids hard. She was telling how their kids in the past would really look up to them, like parents that would know everything. Homeschooling made clear it to their kids that they could not even explain the most straightforward topics to their 10-year-old. Their kids did no longer look up to them anymore. He told me that his eldest discussed with him if it maybe would be better for his future if he would be adopted by smarter parents. He told me that after 4 weeks indoors with his kids, he gave that idea some serious thoughts… And suddenly, he had way more respect for his kids teachers. Just 3 months ago, the Dutch government indicated that the shortage of staff in schools could easily be solved by putting parents in front of the classroom. Fairly sure most parents, after just 4 weeks of educating kids, their own kids, won’t find that a good idea anymore. Guess what, education might even be a profession. Those who can, teach.
A big part of the problem is the simple fact that you know something does not mean by any means that by just talking about the content, someone else will get it. Content is only a part of it; it might even be the smaller part. The whole idea of education is that the students get it, understand it, can work with it. It’s not about you knowing and showing off, it’s about them learning. It’s about them, not you. Knowledge has to become sticky. For anyone to learn, you have to make new knowledge your own. Utterly different ballgame than just telling about the content. Plenty of educational theories out there, plenty of sound academic approaches to education. In business training, we move towards the 5 moments of need, start applying the 70-20-10 method. What can we use from all of that theory of homeschooling, some words of advice to the unlucky parents stuck with their own kids indoor? How to avoid scenes like I witnessed yesterday where the mother of the family shouted at her husband: they are your kids too!?
One of the approaches I have learned to appreciate is the hammock style of teaching. Just imagine you’re in your hammock, looking at the sky, enjoying the sun. And while you’re pretending to relax, start asking questions about some content they learned about. Simple questions, seemingly innocent, random questions that feel innocent enough to your pupil, student, or customer to make them start talking. Just let them talk, explain, share what they have learned. By no means interrupt them, let them talk. When the pause, keep silent: after a short while, they will continue talking. All you have to do is think about the next question. Make it sound like you don’t get it, you need more information. And off they go, talk even more. After a short while, the combination of talking, answering questions, both horizontal and vertical, will help them to digest the content, internalize it, make it sticky. Even if you did not add any explanation to the content, the fact that they have to articulate it does the trick.
I use this approach all the time. As a transformation consultant, as an experience trainer or as a lector at the Unversity. A good example this week was that consultant moving online with his consulting business. Pre Corona, all he did was face to face consulting. Now he needs to go online to make money. The topic he masters, the content, is as relevant as ever to his customers, just the modality of delivery needs to change. Different delivery methods and the extra need to suddenly have a website that explains what he does. Hey Wiemer, mind to take a look at my website? Sure looks colorful, mind if I ask a few questions? And while I apply the hammock style of learning, I ask a whole bunch of questions. Who is your customer, tell me. Why should that customer be interested? Tell me more! What do you do as an intervention? I don’t get that, me bad, could you elaborate on that? How do you do that? Oh, it’s co-creation, what does that mean? When is that applicable? Always, or are there other moments to use this? Where have you done it before? And just after an hour letting him talk, with only a few questions from my side, he starts to see it. It becomes clear what needs to be on the website, what he really does. And as he figured it out himself he owns it, it’s his own learning. Incredible change of quality of his website. All achieved by applying some good old hammock styled education techniques. Works for adults; works for my students; works in homeschooling. Guess what, education might be a profession. I for one am proud to answer anyone who asks me what I do for a living: oh, I am just a teacher. Here’s to all the teachers out there!