Teaching Problem Solving By Doing Nothing

Monday I did nothing for twenty minutes in the middle of rehearsal.

I’m a firm believer in letting struggle happen. Coming through the struggle is how you rise to new heights.

In this case, it was a sound system setup crisis – someone missed part of the job, someone did part of the job wrong. As I stood back to let them solve it, they devolved into chaos.

I could have finished the job in maybe 3 minutes, but I wanted this team to do it. In those moments, they had to find trust, leadership, teamwork.

It was painful, but necessary for their growth.

I’m equally comfortable with silence after I ask a question: one tutoring guide I used told me to leave 15 seconds of silence (actually count) before prompting with a hint. Each second is more painful than the last, but it’s in those seconds that real thinking happens.

“What is mirth?” Count, count, count, count, count….

It takes people time to flip through their internal dictionary, look for similar entries and come to a workable definition. Cut short the process and you’ve just lectured instead of taught.

Could I have used those twenty minutes on Monday night? Sure. But maybe the best use was letting them struggle and eventually succeed.

They might have learned more in those twenty minutes than in the rest of my teaching that day.