for those who wander, wonder & define life on their own terms

Making Thinkers, Not Kool-Aid Drinkers

thinkerMaking thinkers is a delicate job full of tiny little details and potential mess-ups that could ultimately lead to collosal failure.   Someone could swim right to the edge of the infinity pool and then what?  As one well-known gentleman once said, “aye, there’s the rub.”  We can’t foresee the outcome and that’s just downright scaaaarrrrrrryyyyyy to some.

You see, so many teachers are in the midst of a revival, singing praises to the system, or at least going along because the music sounds nice and everyone is just “so darned friendly.”  When you’re part of the potluck it’s a great experience.  So much so that you forget to listen to the sermon to see if it actually preaches values you believe in.  Next thing you know, everyone is drinking the Kool Aid.

Stay away from the Kool Aid.

In no way should a teacher’s job include caving to prescribed ways of thinking.  I know this may rub some the wrong way.  Of course parents matter.  Of course there are societal expectations of behavior.   A good teacher will challenge their pupils to look at these things with open eyes and make sound decisions about how to navigate through such obstacles with clarity about what works best for them.  Notice the words “sound decisions”.  This does not mean aloof, juvenile, ridiculous decisions, but instead implies a level of sanity and conscious consideration.  It means saying the hard stuff and meeting kids where they learn so that they can be great thinkers.

It can be overwhelming to consider all of the things that “shouldn’t be said” in the name of appropriateness and protecting the youth.  There are things we should be protecting our kids from.  Real predators exist in this world, and most people I know would be willing to jump in front of a bullet or rip someone apart who was intent upon exercising physicial violence.  But, often this idea of mentally protecting our youth is more about control.  To really protect kids, we should quit hiding the truth from them.  We should also quit telling them that our agenda is the only one.  At certain ages, they’re going to see and hear things that aren’t all sunshine and fairy farts.  Yep, fairy farts.  Did you cringe at the word fart?  Good.  If you did, I’m talking to you.

Teaching should beget questioning, shoud beget challenging, should get kids out of the black-and-white and into the grey.  Instead of routine, let them learn to have a strong, personal, internal GPS.  Google Maps is wrong half the time anyway.  Teach them that the best maps are the ones they create for themselves.  Heck, you can even draw out your own journey, but don’t lie and say it’s the only way.  Teach creativity and imagination.  Teach innovation.  And remember, what you’re not saying speaks as powerful a message as what you are saying.


  • So many rules and regulations these days. This post reminds me of the trouble some people have making the decision to take their children to funerals. There is nothing more natural then death, yet we try and shield growing minds from learning opportunities…. Great post

  • Wil Hardiman

    Wonderful! You made me forget I was reading something my daughter wrote. Your talent really shines. Oh—fairy farts made me laugh, not cringe—too much the middle school boy in me still.

  • Teaching over here is a lot like that, which I think is both good and bad because it makes kids confused, and in university it meant that I went through every single assignment wondering if I was doing it right or if I had misunderstood what I was supposed to do. And when it comes to language, I don’t agree that there is no right and wrong because “language develops” because I think kids should learn how to spell and use grammar because there IS a right and a wrong, and I get headaches when I see people do grammatical errors ALL THE TIME.
    However, I think the attitude of the young has changed a lot. I don’t hear about student revolutions anymore.. that young people stand up for things, protest against things. It’s like they don’t have the guts to do it anymore, or do they do it but I just don’t hear about it?

    • stellanuova stellanuova

      Oh the fouling of grammar! I have two degrees in English and it drives me nuts when people destroy language. Not that I’m perfect. The comma is my arch-nemesis, and there definitely is a “right and wrong” in certain respects. There are rules and standards in language and lessons, but it seems in America many teachers/schools are afraid to teach kids to think freely. There is definitely a place for structure, but there is also room for freedom of thought…though this might lead to rebellion (that is the fear). Kids are now led to believe that they just can’t rebel because everything is in their best interest, when clearly it isn’t. Great comments! Glad you’re reading.

  • I teach adult learners, and believe me when I say that the indoctrination that they receive as children carries over into adulthood. They tend to look a me a bit aghast when I say that I want them to think and not just recite or spout the things I’ve told them. Some take it to heart, some just parrot my words in the hopes they can get an A. It’s sad, really.

    • stellanuova stellanuova

      That makes me even more sad. Some things you just hope are merely exclusive to a small group, though you know the truth in your heart.

  • I agree that a lot of teachers these days are only teaching students to try to pass tests, or trying to be best friends instead of authority figures and actual teachers. I had an awful chemistry teacher my sophomore year, who only taught so we’d pass the Regents. The sub we had when she was out for a week or so for Bell’s Palsy was so much more fun than she was. I got a 64 on her precious Regents, and had to take my only summer school class ever. The summer school chemistry teacher, who’d also had this teacher when she was a student, agreed she wasn’t very good at effective, fun teaching. Because of the difference in teaching styles, I passed the summer Regents with an 84. She was more about internalizing the material and having fun with it, not memorizing formulas and facts.

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