Mamacita says: I love children, and I love students of all ages, and I love teaching, and I love genuine education in all of its 6-degrees-of-separation wonder. Everything is connected – everything in the known and unknown universe is connected. Nothing exists only within the four walls of a classroom. It often happens – I sincerely hope – that in the course of our education we are required to learn something we simply do not understand.
“Whyyyyyyyy do I have to learn this? (Best said in a whiny, nasal tone.)
There are many answers to this question, all correct, although “Because it’s going to be on the test” is the poorest answer, even though it might be the only answer the student is capable of understanding AT THE MOMENT. Education is so full of wonders that it’s difficult to highlight just one, but I’ll give it a shot.
One of my favorite educational wonders is the simple fact that there are many things we learn for which we know no immediate reason. This not “knowledge for knowledge’s sake,” although I love to know things just to know them. This is “life prep.”
Hasn’t it ever happened to you, that five, ten, thirty, sixty years later, something pops in your brain and suddenly you make a connection to that little poem your mean third grade teacher made you memorize much against your will, and you are able to comprehend something?
I thought so.
THAT’S why you “have to learn this stuff” now. Some of it is for today, and some of it is for tomorrow, and some of it is for when you’re seventy-two years old and struggling with questions far more difficult than school ever made you do. Each of your teachers is trying to prepare you not merely for the next grade up, but for all of the rest of your life. Everything you have ever learned is stored away in your head, somewhere, waiting to serve you “later.” Good teachers know this, and do their level best to encourage students to find and understand the connections and relationships between and among “things.”
That’s what I’ve always tried to do, anyway. I didn’t learn that in college. I learned it from some of my own teachers. Not all; just the good ones. I learned plenty from the bad teachers, too, and not just because bad examples are as useful – and sometimes more so – than good examples. The many good teachers in my life taught me much more than their job description required, and it was these “tangents” that taught me the most. I do this with my students, too, and often those tangents end up being more important than the actual lesson.
If our children learn nothing else in school, I hope they learn about the connections, which are, of course, also relationships. Connecting the dots between math and English and science and history, etc, will help us all want to learn more, and more, and more, and never stop learning more. I consider that to be my primary goal. Perhaps knowing these things about me will soften what I am about to say next, which is simply this:
It’s no surprise to me that a student doesn’t much like to sit still and pay attention when the instructor is boring, lackluster, monotonous, incompetent, and uninformed. (Or any one of those things.) Excellent lessons require much more than books, paper, and pencils; they require the skills of a savvy standup. You can’t teach Period 7 the same way you taught Period 2; it’s a different audience.
However, I still maintain that the majority of responsibility for learning lies with the student, not the teacher. A person who desires to learn will learn in spite of all of the obstacles our modern educational system puts in his/her path, and believe me, modern educational systems put all the obstacles in the path of our students that they possibly can.
It’s still – mostly – the student’s responsiblity.
Bring it on.
(Another re-run. We’re moving this week. I’m buried alive in stress, mess, & junk. This house is a hoarder’s dream.)