How many times do I have to tell you?

Didn’t I already tell you?

It’s just like I showed you?

Do you remember the other day I taught you this?

How many times do I have to tell you?

Too many times, as a teacher, and as a father, these words have flowed freely from my mouth – usually with a tone of annoyance.  A few years ago, when my kids were young, I had an epiphany.  One of my children, I’ll say it was the boy, just dumped his peas on to the floor.  I looked, and realized that, although I had told him a thousand times not to do it, it was the first time I’d told him today.  And in that moment, I realized – although I’d told him before, the lesson didn’t stick, and I needed to tell him again because, after all, that was yesterday, and today was today.  He still needed teaching, not reminding, and adding guilt to the whole thing didn’t really improve the situation.

I was just reminded of this the other day.  My daughter decided that she wanted to help with the dishes.  I can’t tell you how many times she has watched, or at least been near, while I , or my wife, did the dishes.  So, I had her stand beside me, and I handed her the first dish.  She placed it flat on the prongs as if she was laying it on a shelf.  If left there, the dish washer would splash water around the bottom of the plate, and fill the top of the plate with soapy water.  We also would only be able to put one or two more dishes in, in total.  I looked at her – exasperated – and did something I’ve been working hard on lately – I took a breath and relaxed.

“Honey, is that how you think that plate should go?” it was with the “How many times do I have to tell you” tone.

She looked at me – blankly.

And, fortunately, I stopped, and thought, maybe she doesn’t know how to do this.  Maybe I’ve never taught her.  And so I did.

It made me realize how many times, we do things in the proximity of students, and think that, because they’re near by, they’ve paid attention; they’ve learned.  It made me think about how, so many times, we teach something to an entire class of students, and really have no idea how many students actually learned.

This week, while working with some students, I’ve said, multiple times, “Do you remember being taught ______________.  You might not have learned it, but do you remember a teacher teaching you this?”  The students always look at me, inquisitively.

Just because a person teaches a student, it doesn’t mean the student learns.

We need to check for the learning.  Check to make sure that we actually taught what we wanted to teach, and, maybe even more importantly, that the child, the student, learned what we planned would be learned.

What do you think?  Or do you want me to tell you again?



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