Teaching Students; is there really a difference between Kindergarten and Higher Education?

I volunteer periodically with our local elementary school. Most often I work with Kindergartners. I also work as a reference librarian for an online university. Most often working with students that have been out of school for an extended period of time.

I wonder–a lot–about the differences between the two groups. Is there that much of a difference?

Don’t get me wrong, I am in no way belittling the students who have decided to enter the higher education realm. But for fun, let’s look at some key points;

  • Both groups have been out of school for an extended period of time-yes, I understand that one isn’t at all by choice, but sometimes the other isn’t either.
  • Both groups are essentially starting from scratch, at least that is what the higher ed students would want us to believe. They have to train themselves to do assignments, homework, interact with other students.
  • Both groups are essentially learning to read. One group for the first time, and the other is learning how to read scholarly work for the first time.

Most importantly;

  • For both groups, this is a new beginning.

So then how do we, as “teachers”-in one form or another-foster the growth that is necessary to keep the students learning as well as confident in their learning ability?

By listening.

And guiding.

Sometimes we encounter people that just want the answers. They are too busy to learn. You know what happens with those people? It will take them 10x longer to comprehend what they are doing, and then they still might only understand the very basic version of what they are doing.

Versus those that allow us to guide them. By listening to what they have to say, and gently guiding them toward learning the correct way to do something. These are the people that learn not only how to do something, but why they are doing it. They gain 10x more than just learning to do something and it helps to make them who they are.

What can we do to make sure to get through to everyone? Well, we can’t. But what we can do is treat every encounter as if it is the first time you have heard the question. Be that person that really listens to the other person. You never know, it may be all they need.

Get out there and mold some minds!


Perfectionism…Letting Go is Okay

I have been working at one library quite a bit recently.  In this library I particularly like the Children’s area…usually. I don’t know if it was the full moon, scheduled to appear the day after, or the impending storm that made the barometric pressure out-of-whack, or my headache that I just couldn’t quite get rid of, all of which, have an effect on children. But it was a trying day.

All I wanted was a simple “ready reference” question, where the patron would come up and tell me the exact (even close would have been great) title of the book they were looking for. Instead, I got weird question after weird question. You know the kind, the ones where you never really get a satisfying answer, the ones where you are left telling them your best guess.

Those are difficult days to be sure, but perhaps lessons can also be learned from these days. Without a cell phone currently (mine died a few days ago) I was forced to think about the day on my way home. On these days we learn that we do not know everything. Sometimes we need to enlist the help of those around us. And sometimes it makes you feel better to know that the help that we enlist cannot find an answer either.  These days we just need to give up on perfection, and settle with the fact that at least we tried.