• Gene Tavernetti, Ed.D.

Simple rules save lives and student motivation

How would you teach if the life of your child literally depended on you teaching successfully? This is a true story of when I realized how important effective instruction was to the life of my daughter. This is the story of the first two minutes of teaching my daughter to drive.

We live on quiet street in a residential neighborhood. There is so little traffic on our street that there are neither stop signs nor crosswalks at the two intersections that provide ingress and egress to our street. I thought this would be the perfect setting for my daughter to practice driving.

I maintained that belief for about 15 seconds, the time it took my daughter to back out of the driveway and approach the first intersection to leave our street. The complexity of this seemingly simple driving route did not enter my mind until the moment we approached the intersection that did not have a stop sign on any of the four corners.

“What do I do?” my daughter asked, looking at me with a hint of panic, “Do I have to stop?” “How do I know if I can go?”

In my mind I began to organize how best to share all the considerations that go into approaching an intersection without stop signs such as:

  • Which car is traveling on a more through route?

  • Even if you see a car approaching, will the speed of the car allow you enter the intersection and proceed safely without impeding the approaching car?

  • If you are making a left turn, in which direction do you look for cars first?

  • If you are making a right hand turn, you really don’t have to worry about cars coming from the right. Only cars coming from the left will affect your turning onto the intersection.

  • Etc., etc.

It was then when I realized how many decisions I make automatically because of the numerous concepts about driving that have been internalized and automatized.

Instead of attempting to share all these thoughts, I just told her. “Whenever I come to this intersection, I always stop.” I thought that just having a rule, any rule, would simplify the situation for my daughter.

Then she looked at me and asked, “How do I know where to stop?”

The moral : So much of what we teach only seems simple to us because we are experts. Try to imagine what it is like to be a novice.

#focusedinstruction #rules #keyideas

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