Introductory Challenge

All of us, and all students in schools, sometimes need particular support when learning something new. This observation is really just common sense. But here’s the thing: schools are not typically set up to provide this particular support whenever any of us—and any student—needs it. Schools function to school students—they mass them together in large groups. It costs less to do it like that. In other words, it seems to be more efficient.

Wise educators have always pushed against the emphasis on “efficiency.” And many experienced educators—both general and special educators—understand why efficiency cannot be the goal of education. Many students require more time to learn things, or they require different sorts of learning experiences from the standard ones.

But these students are not the problem, even if schools end up classifying them as “exceptional.” The problem is the standard system, and it is a problem at some point for all of us. The standard system is, at least in part, why some children positively hate school and why some children like school only because attending allows them to see their friends.

This unit presents an alternative way to think about teaching itself—not just parts of teaching, but the whole tamale.  When teaching intersects with students’ readiness to learn something, it makes learning more interesting and even fun.


These questions are interesting to explore in conversation with others. If you’re working on this unit solo, you can have a conversation based on these questions with just about anybody of almost any age.  If you are working on this unit as part of a workshop or course, your instructor or facilitator might ask you to use the questions to guide a small-group discussion.

  1. What was the best learning experience you had in school? Why do you remember it? What was different about it?
  1. What is the best teaching you have ever seen (don’t mention names or places, just describe the teaching itself—who did what and why you find it good)?
  1. What are you really good at and how did you get good at it?
  1. Have you ever learned something from a real expert—someone who was just fabulous at doing something you wanted to be able to do too? What was it like?