This afternoon I spent some time browsing in an antiques store of the “we buy junk and sell antiques” variety. The shop had (still has, actually) an old manual typewriter priced at $65.00.
Old typewriters are cool. Even when they look kind of rusted and are covered in dust, they are cool. When I see a typewriter I think, writing. When I look at my laptop (on which I’m writing this post) I think Facebook. It’s obvious that a manual typewriter is a machine for purposeful writing.
Doesn’t it also seem obvious that whatever was written on a typewriter must have been deep and thoughtful? Think of the effort involved in typing even one page – striking the keys, making sure that you hit them in the proper order (no autocorrect!) and then watching your words at the end of the line (no auto-return) so that you can hit the carriage return at the right time. The effort involved proves that the thoughts and ideas captured on paper were important.
Since I don’t have a typewriter, I can’t always tell if I’ve written something really insightful and deep (I’d settle for relatively insightful and not too shallow) or if I’m just stating the glaringly obvious.
Maybe you first have to state the obvious before you can get past it to see what’s on the other side?
What’s the obvious?
It’s the simplistic explanation for what’s happening in the classroom: If the students didn’t learn the material they must be lazy or unmotivated.
It’s the first answer you think of when you’re reflecting on a lesson: If the students aren’t motivated it’s because they don’t care.
Is it possible that what’s “obvious” is not necessarily true? Is it possible that what’s obvious is rarely true?
What’s on the other side of obvious?
It’s those ideas about teaching and learning that you can’t really put a finger on or identify. Then you read a book or an article or a blog post and you think, of course, that makes sense to me. Even though you’ve never thought of it that way before.
It’s the bunny trails you follow to see if they lead you to an understanding that makes sense.
It’s when the novel you’re reading helps you to solve a puzzle in your teaching practice.
The other side of obvious is where the questions you’re asking lead you to insights that you wouldn’t have found if you didn’t ask the question.
You can’t get to the other side of obvious without a question.
A good one to start with is “what if?” Another one is “why?” And “what else is possible?” And “what’s another explanation?”
Sometimes when I’m writing I feel like I’m really onto something interesting and insightful. Other times I think that what I come up with is breathtakingly obvious.
Time will tell, I suppose. Time spent writing and thinking. And teaching and reflecting. And asking lots and lots of questions.
What’s obvious to you now that wasn’t so obvious when you started teaching? How did that shift in thinking take place?