RDFZ, Part 4: A Proverb

On our last day in Beijing, my colleagues and I were waiting in the lobby of the dorm for our ride to the airport. We were joined by Ruby, who was a sort of assistant principal at RDFZ who put our trip together.

I was sharing an opinion with her. Oftentimes, classes focus on conveying information because there are a lot of topics on the syllabus to get through. However, this technique is ineffective since students are not given enough time to process, interpret, contextualize, and absorb the content. Many teachers respond by trying to find more time to pump facts into their students. What I think works much better is to slow down and teach the students to think about the material first and trusting them to develop the ideas they need from there. What I said reminded her of an old Chinese proverb:

Sharpening the ax does not prolong the cutting of the wood.

At the beginning of a class, there is a big pile of objectives to achieve and standards to meet and the tendency is to jump in and start cutting. Lately, though, I’ve been asking myself: “How can I sharpen my little axes first?”.