“The next best thing to being wise oneself is to live in a circle of those who are.” C. S. Lewis
I am enjoying my summer vacation, but as usual I am searching for ways to be a better teacher next year. My goal is both altruistic and selfish. On the one hand I seek improvement because I feel like my students deserve the best teacher that I can be.
I also, very selfishly, seek to improve my teaching so that it is easier to interact with and motivate my students. Let’s face facts: taking a group of fifteen to twenty “strangers” and turning them into a group of “students” who are motivated to “look, listen, and learn” is a daunting task at best. Anything that promises to make the transition smoother is worth trying.
So each summer I study the teaching tips and techniques of others. I read and think and read some more. Then I analyze how the ideas compare with my own observations and experiences.
This summer I’m already intrigued by an idea that I stumbled across quite by accident. I was in the library looking for a history book, realized I was in the wrong section and turned to retrace my steps…when a title on the shelf caught my eye. I’m not sure what made “The Nurture Assumption” so noticeable, but I opened it, read one page, and knew I had to take it home.
Judith Harris’s book is subtitled: “Why children turn out the way they do. Parents matter less than you think and peers matter more.” The author explores nature vs. nurture, the transmission of culture, intelligence and academic performance, peer influences, and the complex system by which children form and then conform to groups. There is far too much information to discuss in a one post or even in a week of posts. I will probably continue to use and comment on her ideas for years! In the meantime I have been reading lots of online documents and studies relating to kindergarten groups because that is what interests me the most.
What I realized this morning is that I can look at the photographs of my previous classes and still identify the “group” each student belonged to, and in many instances, remember why other children did not belong to the group. What I didn’t realize until now is the reasons for those groupings, the long-term impact of them, and what I might have done to change some of them.
I’ll discuss each of those topics soon. In the meantime I’d like to hear your ideas about whether peers have more influence over children than parents.