Monday, January 25, 2016

Joyful Learning

In The Poisonous Mythology of Grittiness from The Tempered Radical, Bill Ferriter asks,

“What if we believed that ALL learning should be fundamentally joyful?”

I love learning! I can’t help myself but I love learning new things. Sometimes it is easy to learn and sometimes I struggle. Sometimes I learn that what I want to do just isn’t the right fit for me. But I think I’ve been lucky because my parents always encouraged me and always expected me to do my best. They expected me to succeed and I worked hard to meet their expectations. My parents always said that learning came easy to me but I think it is because I loved learning.

When I first started teaching, I was really surprised that not everyone loved learning like I did. I read about it and took classes on it but it didn’t seem real to me. How could anyone not love learning!

Then over time I learned that my students really struggled with learning. They wanted to learn as badly as I wanted to when I was their age but it seemed like they had obstacles thrown in their way at every turn. I watched this happen over and over again and I felt my heart break for my students.

Too many times I heard other teachers call them lazy or unmotivated. I even heard their parents say the same thing but not because they believed it but because the “experts” told them this about their children over and over again. Once the students were labeled this way, they had no desire to try. They had failed so many times that they were tired of being beaten down.

I decided that I needed to help them taste success. They needed to start seeing some positive things happen so that they could feel the joy too. I believed that once they started doing well, they would rush into learning new things! I couldn’t wait to make this happen.

But I was to be disappointed. Many of my students started to pass their tests and make better grades but they weren’t excited about it. Some of them were cautious and thought it was just luck. Others thought it wouldn’t last and was distrustful about their success. The only way to combat these feelings was to take time and continue to help them make forward steps. The more they succeeded, the more willing they were to take risks but it was a very slow process.

Hopefully by the end of the school year, their successes were giving them some joy. I hope it encouraged them to want to learn more. Isn’t that what a teacher should be doing?

How do you get your students to feel this joy? Please share.

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