This summer, my daughter Hazel and I went on a hike together to Devil's Kettle. We were on what I call "Hazel Time." I had snacks in our backpack and no deadline or time we had to be anywhere (which is good because Hazel likes to take a lot of breaks when we go on hikes.)
We stopped at the lower falls and Hazel found a frog in a puddle that she wanted to sketch. We hunkered down with our sketchbooks and drew for about twenty minutes while five or six different families took selfies with the falls in the background. After twenty minutes, Hazel exclaimed, "Mom! There's another frog!" Sure enough, there were two frogs in our two foot square puddle. We'd been staring at our frog for twenty minutes, how could we possibly have missed another frog about six inches from the first? I even looked back at a picture I'd taken when we'd first sat down and, sure enough, the second frog was right there.
We both laughed about our obliviousness but then I got to thinking. (August, for me, is a time of thinking -- everything seems to become symbolic of the teaching journey I am about to undertake.)
So often, we are in a rush for children (or ourselves) to get something. We introduce an idea or a skill and our first question is, "Does that make sense?" or "Get it?" But understanding takes time, often a lot of time. We have to go through a process of disequilibrium, confusion and, often, frustration before we come to understand something. Learning is not instant - even though I often wish it were, just to save students the discomfort of figuring something out.
And so the second frog became the "aha" moment. Here we were, sitting and staring and studying our frog, but unaware of the existence of the second frog. It took us a long time to just be with what we were looking at (learning) for us to be able to see it fully. It's the same with learning a new math skill or applying a new idea in reading or having empathy with a group of people we're studying - it takes time to understand.
And so, as I start to plan our work for the year to come, I'll try hard to make sure we have time to "just" think so that students can get their heads around new things without me taking shortcuts and just explaining everything. Because to really own learning, you have to see things for yourself and that takes time.