Lather, Rinse, Repeat

I had my hair done today.

That’s nothing out of the ordinary. About every four weeks, the grey starts to show, or I get this sort of thickness that just won’t calm down–so I go to the hairdresser.

I’ve been going to the same salon for 17 years. It’s not a Steel Magnolias style salon. In fact, before moving to this area, I was always clipping pictures from hair magazines, styled by THIS salon. But, I digress. So, for 17 years, I’ve been going to the same salon.

I never ever look or feel the same when I leave. After 17 years.

Isn’t that an interesting phenomenon?

I thought about that while I sat watching the before and afters walk in and out of the salon. I even craned my neck to see the drastic changes one client was going through. (I always find drastic changes exciting–at least in other people! But, I have been carrot top red and platinum blonde before; so there is part of me that seeks drastic changes in myself, too!)

My mind drifted to teaching. I’ve been teaching for longer than I’ve been going to this salon. What if my learners came in each day and left unchanged. Or WORSE–what if they spent all year with me and left–UNCHANGED. 

Sometimes as teachers, I think we fall into the trap of “lather, rinse, repeat.” Day in and day out. Nothing changes for our learners. We lather up the lesson, we wash it over them–each hour of the day, only to have them return the next day and we repeat the same process.  The lessons are predictable. Every day is scheduled exactly like the day before and the day before that and the day before that and the day before that.

After seventeen years, my stylist, still, EVERY time I go to the salon, sits me in a consult chair (the one with the lights that always make me look so fantastic!) and asks me EVERY time…”what do you like? what don’t you like? what are we doing today?” She asks ME. I am obviously not the expert, but she relies on me to tell her what we are doing.

Aha! What if we asked our learners. Every day, or, okay, more realistic–every unit–or even every semester, but surely every day there is something we can give to our learners...

What do you like?

What don’t you like?

Which could translate to what are you doing well? What are you not doing so well?

And the coolest of all questions, “What do you want to do today?” 

What if we hand the expertise over to our learners?

It just seems that we gain relevancy with our kids when we ask them what they want to do. Immediately we see what is important to them. We have a lens into what is significant to their lives at that very moment. As the expert, then, we can weave these things into our standards, into our teachable moments, into our lather, rinse, repeat lessons.

Every time my stylist styles my hair? I love it. But every time she styles it–she does something a little bit different. Whether it’s beach waves, or a flipped side, less hairspray or more…she changes things, so I always have this feeling of expectancy and no matter what…I leave the salon CHANGED.

Shouldn’t our classrooms be like that? Shouldn’t our schools be like that?

Just for this week, why don’t you ask your learners, “What do you want to do today?” then do that. Make sure you are giving your learners opportunities to wear a new style of learning, answer a new question, find a new place to sit..something besides lather, rinse, repeat… in order that they leave your classroom changed.

Author: Dr. Valerie King

Quirky thinker. Joyful teacher. Perpetual learner. For the Kids.

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