I had a little epiphany while playing with my son, WG. We were engaged in a boisterous game of basketball on a mini-hoop in the middle of our home. It was great. Running around, keeping score, yelling NBA Jam phrases (RAZZLE DAZZLE!), dribbling around the house. Good times. The he comes up showing me a controlled crossover. Not a left to right dribble, a crossover. He was also trying to mimic my movements.
Why was he learning this stuff now? Seriously. I had tried to coach him on some stuff before but the attention span was very limited. He does like basketball and we’ve been to gyms a bunch of times. He’s practiced and got better, but this was different. Here we were playing “basketball” and he was showing me all kinds of skill development, not to mention numeracy skills.
It’s because when kids are having fun with the game or subject, they’ll learn all sorts of stuff from another engaged mentor.
I think that’s what most of us want. We don’t want or need to learn a subject or skill all up front. We want to learn the basics, then play, enjoy, and learn. Having an engaged mentor (or community) will help provide modelling.
I feel we often get caught up in microteaching and overcoaching. We try to make kids fit into the box right away. You can’t just have fun playing basketball! You have to learn to do it “properly”.
This story repeated itself days later when I took WG to the driving range for the first time ever. I told him about a few basic things about a golf swing and safety reminders, but I would let him hit the balls and have fun. WG was hacking away, missed a bunch of times, and had some small successes.Occasionally he would watch intently at what I was doing across from him. I gave him a few reminders about how to hold the club and how to swing, but I kept my interference to a minimum. I just kept doing my hits and having fun with him. In the end he ended up making some very solid connections.
In short, people learn when they’re engaged and mentored. Not when they’re info-dumped and left hanging.