The “Edu-Babble” of Teaching
How to Speak “Teacher Talk” During Remote Learning
By Kate Schuerholz McConnell
Who knew that at the start of the 2019-2020 school year, we all would become homeschoolers and our children would become our students? My guess is “no one.” And now that we are weeks into remote learning, the novelty is wearing thin. School doors are closed for the rest of the school year, but learning is expected to continue. The summer slide is looking like an avalanche. And probably the most frustrating for parents is that many of our kids from preschool and beyond listen very well to their teachers, but believe we parents know nothing. And sometimes we really do not know as much as our own kids. Who knew that we were never carrying a “one” when we were adding two double digit numbers, but were actually borrowing 10?
What is a parent to do?
As a 20-year veteran to the educational profession, there is a secret language teachers use that can help you during this time. To us, we call it by the fancy name of “pedagogical language.” To everyone else, it sounds like “edu-babble.” (Full disclosure: this is a term coined by two Canadian mathematicians who host a Podcast about math called “Making Math Moments Matter.”)
Heavy lifting: This is a favorite term used by teachers when talking about curriculum and learning. We want students to do the “heavy lifting” of learning. In other words, the days of lecturing and giving students the information are over. But, how do you get kids to do the heavy lifting? By using some of the below “edu-babble.”
Parking lot: When I first began teaching, I felt I needed to know the answer right away of any question that was asked by a student. But, that’s impossible. Not even top experts in their fields know the answer to every challenge. If that was the case, most of us would not be homeschooling right now and there would be a COVID cure. So what do you do when your child has a question that you don’t know the answer to? Or you want to encourage them to find the answer themselves? Put the question in a “Parking lot.” The “Parking lot” can be a door, a poster board, a notebook. It is a place where questions are parked until there is time to look for the answers. This is a technique I learned my 4th year teaching and it served me well over the years. When a student asked a question that required investigating I would respond excitedly, “That is a great question! Let’s put it in the parking lot.” Then the question is written by the student or teacher (depending on age, skill, etc.) and placed in the parking lot until there is time to find the answer. This technique can be used for questions you know the answers to. But, for learning to take place, kids need to do the “heavy lifting.” It’s better if they find the answers. And, it’s not necessary to call the “parking lot” by the name. When I taught middle school, my students loved the fact that I had once been a journalist, so we created an “investigative journalist board.”
Explain it to me When you find yourself unsure about how your child arrived at an answer, this is a great go-to phrase. If the answer is incorrect, when a child explains how they got the answer, this method will often help the child see the error of their ways. If it does not, well mistakes are where the fun begins! Or at least they can be. And if you have a child who huffs and puffs when you try to engage verbally about their learning—which is not uncommon at all—then an “explain it” journal can do the trick. Have your child explain the steps they made by writing or typing in a journal, or explaining it in a video or audio recording.
Learning is fun Now, don’t roll your eyes too hard, but learning can be fun. Forcing learning is not. If you are finding that your child is pushing back to hard, then perhaps the concept is frustrating them? What is a parenteacher to do? Well, I recommend surfing the net using to search for whatever the concept is followed by the phrase “games for” and whatever grade your child is in (e.g., parallelogram games for 3rd graders, US History games for 9th graders, Chemistry games for sophomores, etc.). Games are a go-to way for we teachers to “trick” our students into learning a concept we are trying to teach them. Research shows that students learn more when they are having fun. So, it’s not cheating to play a game. It’s helpful.
Brain breaks When students become less engaged, wiggly, etc., this is often an indication that a child needs a “brain break.” Brain breaks can include any activity your child finds engaging and it can have absolutely nothing to do with anything except that it gives your child time to decompress.
I do hope these little tricks help you with your parenteaching. For more tips and tricks, when you have a moment (stop laughing), I do recommend checking out some of the go-to websites that we teachers often rely upon, including the following: Teachers-Pay-Teachers, Edutopia, and Khan Academy.
Kate Schuerholz McConnell is a 20-year veteran of education, serving as the Director of Inclusive Education for the Archdiocese of Chicago. Prior to becoming an educator, Kate was a trade journalist covering the Satellite Communications Industry. She holds a masters degree in special education from DePaul University, and is less than a month away from a 2nd masters degree in administration/supervision from Loyola University Chicago.