In church this week, my pastor talked about being hungry and I started thinking about being hungry for learning. She talked about being hungry at times because she didn’t eat what was there or she didn’t like her choices.
I remember being a young child and loving the idea of school. I remember playing school with my stuffed animals, my cousins, my friends, and anyone else I could talk into playing school with me. I think at one time our German shepherd was even one of my students. I loved to read and learn anything and everything. Luckily my parents encouraged me to learn and most of my teachers did too.
Then I look at the students I teach. This past summer I held a summer program for children age 6-13 who have had learning problems in school this year. Of course the little ones were excited every day to be there. But the 9-13 year olds just didn’t seem to be happy. They already knew that learning was a struggle for them. It was really sad to look into these faces and see that many of them have lost this hunger for learning.
I wonder what we do as educators that turn this hunger for learning away. Many times out students choose not to take what is being offered because they don’t like their choices. Many times they have learned that learning causes emotional pain. I remember my parents having me try to eat new foods just to see if I liked it. How do I get my students to try new things? How do I get them past the fear of learning new things? At what point have we caused this fear?
At the end of the 4 week program I was told by many parents that we have helped give their child confidence. One student has returned 4 years in a row and his mother tells me that he will be back next year. Another parent told me that she was shocked at what a difference we made in her child in just a short time. I explain that we have worked on a few skills but I don’t think we made as big a difference in the skill level as much as we have in the self confidence level. Some of these children have gotten just a little hungry for learning again. I think that if we have been able to stir up that hunger again for some of them, then it has been a worthwhile program.
How do you make your students hungry for learning? Please share!
Image: 'Hungry Baby Birds'