Useful assumptions for teachers

Not simply in the classroom, but anywhere we hope to inform, inspire or educate:

Assume enrollment. Either someone is committed to learning or they’re not. While many situations place people into a spot where they are compelled to show up (exhibit A: learning arithmetic in grade school), it’s almost impossible to teach well if people don’t care. If folks aren’t enrolled, then the first job is to change that. If you’re worried that they’ll click away or drift off, it’s difficult to do good work.

Assume good intent. This is a cousin of enrollment. If you’re worried that someone is going to use an AI to write an essay, it’s easy to spend all your time building walls instead of bridges.

Assume fear. Learning creates change, and change is scary. In addition, we’re briefly incompetent just before we understand… we know that something can be done, but we don’t know how to do it (yet). When in doubt, look for the fear.

Assume a lack of context. The reason you ‘know’ something is because you know it. You understand what came before, what’s next to it, how it works, what the language of your field is (both words and concepts). If you’re teaching something new, you can’t be sure that’s true for them. More time on context and less time on tips and bullet points creates the conditions for understanding.

Assume connection. Some would like to believe that learning can be done alone, in a tower, with a laptop. But in fact, until we interact with other people or systems, all we’ve done is absorb, we haven’t yet understood.