I remember the first time I stood in front of a classroom to deliver a lecture. I was a graduate student, filling in for a professor who was teaching a class in labor economics. I loved the feel of chalk in my hands and the precision of graphing diagrams explaining the workings of the labor market. I was young, but standing in front of a room filled with students only a little younger than myself, I knew that this was what I wanted to do with my life.
Although I still I enjoy lecturing at times, I realized long ago that a more interactive classroom works better for student learning. That might involve group work or having the students complete a problem that I start or create and work ones of their own. No, the days of standing in front of the classroom with all the answers are pretty much gone for me. The older I get, the more I realize there are large gaps in my knowledge base. Instead, my students and I are both learners, and as I acknowledge that, I look for other ways to teach.
Somehow, although I understand this in my classrooms, the idea has yet to overflow into my interaction with my daughter. It seems that whenever there are difficult topics that come up in conversation, I find myself going though long explanations, lectures, in a sense, to explain them. It is not unusual for me to be in the midst of an explanation only to hear my daughter tell me “yah, mom, I get it.” But does she really get it, or will it take a lifetime of experience before she can really understand the significance of what I was trying to say? And is it fair to try to transmit the wisdom that came from a half-century of living into the brain of a pre-teen? What do I really expect her to get out of my mini lectures that occur on the way to the library or the pool?
And yet, I cannot lose a grip on the part of me that wants to be a teacher, even if it is from the front seat of a car. I can’t imagine simple answers to some of the topics that have come up recently. “What was the Civil War about?”, “Why doesn’t everyone go to the same church, and do they all still believe in God?” “What does it mean that he has Down syndrome?” “Why did Anne Frank have to hide?” and, most recently, “Why did my aunt and my grandma both get cancer, and will you or I get it, too?”
In each case, I found myself going into details about history and biology that she probably didn’t need to know. However, I did not want to oversimplify some of the sadder aspects of living on this planet, and did not want to give false answers to questions that touch at the deepest aspects of being human. And so, I ask my readers, to those of you who do not rely completely on lectures in your classrooms, do you find yourselves falling back into lecturing when it comes to talking to your children?