One afternoon when I got home from school I took Natalie in the backyard to play frisbee with Jackson. She loves watching him run around chasing and catching the frisbee. After he tired out, I set her down in a shady spot on the grass. I realized that I had never actually set her in the grass by herself. We’d sat in the yard together but it was the first time I just put her down and let her go on her own. At first, she was cautious and a bit confused… … but it didn’t take long for her to start trying to figure things out. She wiggled her toes and grabbed at the grass with her fingers. She was very focused, exploring and taking in the experience. And then she looked up at me with this face of pure joy. She liked this new thing she had discovered. It seems like such a simple thing – the grass – but to her it was exciting because it was something new to try to understand. Something new to learn. Babies have an innate desire to learn. Their brains are constantly busy processing new experiences and building new connections. Everything they do is an opportunity to learn and they certainly take advantage of it. They even seem to find great joy in it! As I sat there watching Natalie happily explore the grass, the teacher in me began to wonder… when do they lose it? When do these babies, so eager to discover, grow into kids who cringe at the thought of school? When do they become teenagers who appear, on the outside, to no longer find any joy in learning? Later I thought about it some more and realized that the better question is “why”. Why do they lose it? I know that some kids (and adults) truly enjoy school. I know because I’m one of them! Part of why I love teaching is that I love learning and sincerely enjoy the process of learning within the setting of school. But I also know that there are many kids who dislike school or find that it is frustratingly difficult for them. I know because many of the kids I work with express those thoughts and feelings. Maybe it’s the structure and routine. Maybe it is the style in which information is presented. Maybe it’s individual difficulties with the process of learning. The list of reasons could probably get pretty long and I don’t have an exact answer as to the “why”. I don’t have an exact answer as to how to change it either. But I found this quote and thought it could be a step in the right direction.
Speak to me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn.
I try to do that with my students. I try to involve them and engage them in learning so they feel personally connected. I hope to inspire a spark of that joy in them again. That joy of discovery and learning. That joy I see in Natalie as she learns about this world around her. I hope I can do that, even for just a few.