Thoughts on the difference between teaching kids and adults

I taught a puppetry class on Friday and am reminded, as always, at how much better 1st graders are at following directions than adults. In general, I find that adults tend to think that they know how to do something or can figure it out on their own and will jump ahead without waiting for instructions.

Kids will also do that, but with them it’s more a matter of being so excited about the project that they just want to dive in immediately. But they’ll actually stop and listen to the instructions. And if they don’t know how to do something, they’ll let you know instead of being embarrassed about their lack of knowledge.

Now, in general, I’m a big believer in showing kids how to do a thing and then letting them do it on their own. Frequently, they’ll say, “I don’t know how,” or “It’s hard.” Grownups will do the same thing. But kids… if you tell a kid, “Yes, it is hard, and it was hard the first time I did it too. It just takes practice,” then they’ll actually try it.

Grownups tend to get disgusted and give up faster and they should really know better. Plus, you know, when a grownup misbehaves, you can’t give them a time out, no matter how much you might want to.

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2 Responses

  1. Karen Wester Newton

    When I first got out of college, I taught art to middle and elementary school kids. Two jobs later, I taught adults how to use computer software. This was long enough ago that these adults were often completely new to computers, and I found that having taught young children was a great prerequisite for teaching computer-phobic adults. And I did miss not being able to send someone who insisted on taking phone calls during the class to the Principal’s office!

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