Date: March 19, 2021

Are you telling (enough) white lies?

I was a bit of a science geek at school.

For my ‘A’ Levels, I studied Physics, Chemistry and what we called “Double Maths” - that’s pure AND applied maths.

In other words, I was the kid who said: “I want to study maths, but I want to do twice as much as everyone else.”

“Why not study single maths, and take Biology instead?”

“Nope. That’s not nerdy enough. Double Maths for me please.”

But looking back, it’s Chemistry that stands out.

Because it seemed like when you hit your ‘A’ Levels the teacher basically said: “You know, you’re gonna have to forget a lot of what we’ve taught you up until now, because it’s mostly not true.”

You see, they couldn’t teach you how things really worked, because your adolescent brain would explode, so they taught you a simplified version, just presented it like it was the truth.

(Physics, on the other hand, seemed more like: “Everything you’ve learned until now is all still true. Now we’re just going to teach you the harder stuff.“)

I think this old memory came up because as course creators we often want to tell our students exactly how things are.

We want to give them the full benefit of our knowledge, complete with all the subtle nuances. It just feels like the right thing to do.

But the problem is, we risk blowing their minds (and not in a good way).

That’s why it’s usually smart to dumb things down for your students. Even to tell a white lie or two about the way things work.

As long as it helps them to get the result they signed up to get.

So ask yourself, are you overcomplicating things for your students? Are you sacrificing simplicity at the altar of correctness?

Because your job as a teacher isn’t to be 100% accurate or even truthful, it’s to get an honest result for your students.

Consider:

  • What’s the absolute minimum that students need to move along their journey?
  • What’s the simplest way of explaining things that still enables them to make positive progress?
  • What’s the thing that’s technically true that you choose to leave out to avoid confusion?

Because working all of this out is the difference between being a real teacher, and just being someone who’s telling people what they know.

See you soon,

Glen

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