Creative Thinking, Critical Thinking, Education, K-12

Tell Your Students to Get Lost

I was driving between appointments yesterday, and considered taking a potential shortcut.  After a quick internal debate, I decided to stick to the route I knew even though I would barely arrive on time.  Why didn’t I take the shortcut?

Because I had a guess it would be quicker, but I wasn’t absolutely sure where it would take me.  If it worked, I would get there earlier and be able to use it many times in the future.  But, if I got lost…

So, even though I’ve often thought about using that shortcut, and it would be awesome if it worked because I could forever use it, I haven’t.  I never have time when I think about it that I’m willing to give up if I get lost.

This is what we often do to our students.  We show them the way to do something that we want them to achieve, and we never give them time to discover their own route to the destination.  There is no time for them to stray from the path we prescribe.  If they start wandering, we quickly re-direct them.  Or, we sometimes tell them they obviously can’t read this map so they should just give up and move on to the next destination. It doesn’t matter that they might have found a more efficient way, or even a more scenic route, if given time.

As my students meander their way through their Spy School Missions in our Undercover Robots camp this week, I chuckle at their circuitous routes and congratulate them on discoveries that don’t necessarily relate to the mission.  I wonder what schools would be like if more learning could happen this way, if we told our students frequently, “Get lost.  And be sure to tell me all about it.”

Flickr image from Ian Wilson
Flickr image from Ian Wilson


3 thoughts on “Tell Your Students to Get Lost”

  1. I love this! My father used to call them “longcuts” the opposite of a shortcut because sometimes it ended up taking longer. I completely agree with you! We complain that the kids can’t think creatively and then realize we are dictating everything for them. Definitely food for thought. 🙂

    1. Time just seems to be one of our enemies in going deeper and “different.” We have to get rid of all of the unknowns just to keep on a schedule. And, when you think about it, it’s the unknowns that really make life worth living 🙂

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