Mental Agility – Open Mindedness
We all carry our schooling with us for the rest of our lives. This is particularly true when it comes to teachers. There are definitely two camps here: those teachers who loved their time at school and strive to emulate their own experience, and those who are putting to right the damage caused by their own education. I am very much in the latter.
My most vivid memory of a lesson was a year 9 Physics class. We were being taught about Rutherford’s theory of the atom and I was actually riveted by the content. Half way through things took a turn for the worse. We started discussing the Nucleus of an atom and something began to bother me. If it was made only of Protons (positively charged particles) and Neutrons (no charge), why did it stay together? After all, like charges repel. I asked my teacher and she swiftly threw me out of the class for trying to be funny! She did not have a very open mind – or the answer, for that matter. I vowed never to become ‘that teacher’.
A few years back, during one of our INSET sessions our teaching team were discussing the fact that we no longer truly understood the world that our children are growing up in and that this was only going to become more challenging. How then, could we prepare these young people to cope with this uncertain future? The attribute that is most key to this is having an open mind. Being mentally agile and being able to adapt to the unfamiliar is going to be a most vital skill.
Being open to new ideas can prove difficult but it is definitely a skill that can be developed. One method is to enable children to reflect on their own work or that of others. The children chose Wagoll the dog because of dogs’ empathy and I believe that empathy has a vital role to play in seeing things from a different perspective. It always amazes me how astute children are. Exposure to unfamiliar situations and open-ended tasks are also effective at developing this trait. These are definitely things I see happening in the classroom.The next strategy will not surprise you – ALLOW CHILDREN TO FAIL! I am beginning to sound like a stuck record now, but making children comfortable with learning from their failure is absolutely essential in developing an open mind.
Children must understand the thinking and learning process. It isn’t Rocket Science, just basic Metacognition and Neuroscience! Happily, I now know the answer to why the Nucleus of an atom sticks together.Categories: School Blogs