They watch us all the time. The students, that is. They listen to us sometimes. They learn from all that watching and listening.
–Theodore and Nancy Faust Sizer, The Students are Watching, 1999, Beacon Press
The Sizers wrote about classrooms and schools, explaining that students learn from what their teachers do and say and also from the things their teachers do not do or say. The authors illustrated their points in many ways, demonstrating how much our students learn from the things we do not do.
I read the Sizer’s book in the later 1990s with my growing child at home, so it was easy to see how the lessons applied not just to teachers but also to everyday family life. The message — that children learn from what we don’t do and don’t say as much as from the things we intentionally teach — applies well at home and at school.
This week, with so many media-rich events, I thought about the Sizers’ book. Adults spent a huge amount of time-consuming news about superstorm Sandy, the election, and for a few minutes, many of us gazed at a viral short video of a little girl crying out “No more Bronco Bama and Mitt Romney.” We encountered non-stop negative television commercials, disaster pictures and videos, television news programs, robo telephone calls, radios tuned into programs all day long (yes, I am guilty of keeping NPR on most of the day when I am home), and plain old-fashioned magazines and newspapers. Lot’s of us may have felt like crying. But my question is, “Why did Abby hear or see so much that she started to cry?”