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Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Learn so we can do - How school gets it backwards

I was just about to write a reflective piece for the end of 2013, but I remembered this post from June.  After reading it, I realize it summed up my key insight from the year very well.  I just have to add this link to my more recent post about teaching like an artist.  That describes how the idea here has grown and it shows how I put it into practice.

In a lot of ways this was a great year.  I saw some good learning take place for students and teachers.

When I was preparing for professional development in March I had an insight that changed much of what I've said for years.  I used to emphasize the joy of learning.  I wanted kids to fall in love with learning.  I have always loved to learn, but now that I wrapped up my 19th year as an educator I had to admit something.

I don't think we'll even get close to making everyone fall in love with learning for its own sake.

Yes, the love of learning can make life exciting, but so can the love of a million other things.  As teachers, we aren't doing a great job of getting the masses to put their affections in learning itself and I am ready to say now that it's OK.  It's like convincing runners to stop running so they can find the joy of painting.

What I realized is that even for all of my love of learning, like everyone else I have probably learned best when I needed to prepare for something important.  In fact, those often were the times I least loved the learning that needed to take place!

To put it briefly, here's why school gets it backwards and students miss the point:
  • Teachers say students should do things so they learn.
  • Students think they do things for credit.
  • In reality, we all learn best when it's so we can do something important.
I am convinced we'll transform education when teachers (the only people in school who see individuals everyday) are passionate about providing those individuals with meaningful things to do in the near future (not just prep for a job years down the road) that require them to learn new knowledge and skills.

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