The One Who Does the Most

My colleague and I conclude today that the student who often appears the most disengaged can be the very student thinking the most deeply.

Maybe, just maybe, the more silent and separate the student becomes, the more her brain works. We cannot assume that silence or staring off into space means what we think it means. We favor the talkative, energetic, busy, over-producing student because we misunderstand what’s happening inside a student’s mind.

I hear the story of a challenge presented to a group. Three group members tackle it head-on with eager involvement while one sits aside, apparently bored and consumed with his media. As the other three try and fail to solve the challenge, the disengaged student calmly announces the solution the others cannot see. He’d been thinking all along. He’d been problem solving even as he stared at the screen.

His way of thinking looked different from what we praise in the classroom.

I remember that sometimes I do my best thinking when I’m doing something else. Sometimes I have to talk and talk to get to a solution, and other times, I have to watch television and let my mind work on its own in that mysterious process where thoughts roam without pressure. It might seem like someone’s “wasting time” when really, the brain’s working in its own way.

Maybe the one doing the most is the one doing nothing at all.

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