Everyone has their happy place. A spot where they go to rest, recharge, and draw strength from their surroundings. For me, that place is the boundary waters near the boarder of Canada. Whenever I’m standing in that wide expanse of trees, water, and open air, I can take a deep breath and feel completely at ease. Truth be told though; this wasn’t always the case.
When my father first took me to the boundary waters as a teen, I absolutely hated it. I wasn’t very good at fishing or camping so I didn’t see the point in participating. The wind and water made me uncomfortable, and all I really wanted was to get back to my video games. Thankfully, my father (being an amazing Dad) was patient. He taught me how to cast a line and raise a tent. Over time, I got used to the weather and even enjoyed the fresh breeze when it swept through our campsite. Without electronics clogging up my thoughts, my own creativity suddenly took off and I started writing.
These days I love camping in the boundary waters, but I’ll be honest, it was an acquired taste.
Kids These Days
I bring this up because I feel the same principles can also apply to our work as educators. Most students don’t arrive in our classroom on fire and ready to learn. Too often they’re uncomfortable, intimidated, or unsure of themselves. Others dislike a certain subject, so they’re reluctant to put forward much effort. Then there are the constant distractions: iPhones, videogames, friends, wondering what’s for lunch, etc.
Let’s face it, school is hard work and that doesn’t always equate to fun. If we want to inspire our students’ curiosity, creativity, and critical thinking, we first need to help them acquire an appetite for learning.
Learning How to Learn
Here are a few helpful reminders of how you can cultivate a student’s love for learning:
- Be Patient: Rome wasn’t built in a day, and your student won’t become a Philomath overnight. Remember to be patient. Take this opportunity and get to know your students. What are their hobbies? Their life goals? Which subjects do they excel in and which ones give them trouble? The answers you get now will be the raw material for future growth.
- Provide Hands-On Activities: Most people learn by doing. Whenever you have the opportunity, help a student by actively involving them in an assignment. Give them tools to work with or task them with mixing solutions. Don’t just have them read Shakespeare, encourage them to act it out! When students are up and moving, they become more involved with the knowledge they’re absorbing.
- Mix and Match: Does one of your students like biology but struggle with English? Have them write about their favorite endangered animal. Does another demonstrate great empathy but consider math boring? Show them how microloans have the power to change the world! By combining their passions with another subject, students are more likely to engage with the material and invest in their own learning.
- Introduce Change: By all means, help your student develop their own interests, but never stop encouraging them to try something new. Research has shown that students have a way of putting themselves into boxes. It’s our extreme privilege to help them break out and discover what they could be missing. Take the opportunity to introduce them to a new historical figure, sequence for doing math, or genre of literature. You never know when a dreaded subject will suddenly become their new favorite hobby!
Feed Your Mind
I think all of us enjoy learning – one of the many reasons we chose teaching as a profession! We love the thrill of discovery and the satisfaction of personal growth. However, it’s easy to get trapped in safe routines and familiar options. That hunger for knowledge gets buried under our everyday cares and anxieties. In order to build a classroom where engagement and inquiry thrive, all of us (both teachers and students) must acquire a taste for learning. It may be difficult at times, but the rewards are always worth it!