Hey Teacher: Stop Thinking & Do Some Work

(Your results may vary)

I’ve been thinking quite a lot about thinking of late. Specifically, I’ve been researching the power of giving students time to think and to reflect – both about the content and skills we teach, as well as the nature and functioning of their own cognitive processes.

The modern teacher always seems to have so much to get through that it isn’t always possible to slow down and give kids the time to chew and savor what it is we’ve served up. But finding the time to allow kids time for quiet, unstructured contemplation (in order to consolidate what they’ve learned in a deliberate, mindful way) can only lead to a fuller, more personal understanding. And thus improve their performance in the classroom. Moreover, allowing them the time to mull over their own thinking processes gives them the meta-skills required to take on a more efficient, personalized approach to learning.

Taking time to think is important in learning. But not, it seems, in teaching.

For a teacher, ‘working’ involves actually ‘doing something’: teaching, marking, assessing, preparing, getting the admin done and so on. Take time to think about what you’re doing and some brilliant wit is bound to ask “Working hard or hardly working?”

No, we get to think once everything else is done. (Perhaps late at night once the kids are asleep and our SO is reading in bed.)

If taking time for reflection is important for learning, why aren’t the ones in charge of learning also given time in their schedules to simply think? I would posit that it is as important for a teacher to ponder their practice as it is for students to cogitate on their cognition. For many of the same reasons. After all, kids learn as much from what we say as from what we do. And if we aren’t modeling thinking and thoughtfulness, are we not setting a bad example?

We don’t have to fill every spare moment with ‘real work’. Just as important is working inside your head. To my way of thinking, teachers need to resist the impetus to be busy (and to be made busy) in every spare moment and










  1. Have you heard of Classroom Confidential by Laurel Schmidt? I only have an extract but it’s on my wishlist. You’re onto a similar vein here. It’s counter intuitive to give that space but oh the sparks that can be ignited!


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