When we think of education, our minds are geared to think of seated in rows of desks, listening attentively to teachers lecturing or modeling a new skill or idea. We assume that attentive students are taking in all the new information and processing it to be stored in their long-term memory. In a perfect world, that would be the case. As adults, we know that learning a new skill is a process. Think back to learning how to ride a bike. As a child, you are told to get on, pedal and just balance. Easier said then done. Not only do you need the knowledge of how to ride a bike, but you also have to comprehend how to successfully jump on this two-wheeled machine and ride without falling. To do this you have to apply your knowledge and practice, practice, practice!
Over my travels, I attended a workshop and the presenter recited this quote “Celebrate that in which you want to see more of.” This Principal, Muriel Summers, said that when she is working with her students she remembers this short phrase and applies this celebration to appropriate situations. Think about the discovery of bike riding: you jump on, balance and ride. Your instructor cheers at your success and prompts you to keep going. The celebration builds your confidence and signals that this is a behavior that should be repeated and practiced until you are able to ride a bike automatically and subconsciously.
Go back to the classroom, where the teacher is lecturing with the assumption that the students miraculously just got it. We all know that only a small population of students just get it. Students need to experiment, ask questions and sometimes fail before a skill becomes automatic. When working with your children or if you are a teacher working with your students, remember that students need to create their own knowledge. When a child is asking questions, they are learning. Don’t discourage this curiosity, in fact celebrate it. “Celebrate that in which you would like to see more of!” We want children to ask questions, to apply knowledge and be able to explain the new skill to others. It is at this point that learning occurs. We have all been there with our children when they ask a question, we answer it, and they respond with “but why?” Instead of celebrating and encouraging that “but why”, we usually respond with “just because.” At that point, learning comes to a halt! Support that questioning and your child will amaze you with insights and connections that they make with your simple explanation.
One thing to remember is Socrates quote, “Genius always begin with wonder.” Learning is not only a child sitting in rows of desks listening to their teachers. Learning is enhanced in play and higher order thinking skills are shaped with imagination. The ability to pretend opens doors to all disciplines of education. Celebrate that pretending and occasionally get lost in wonder with your child.
Educational tip: When your child shows signs of wonder and are a little inquisitive, support their initiative and sometimes enhance their ideas with even more detailed ideas. Taking a few minutes to learn with your child will make a lifetime of difference. It is amazing to see a child experience the “new”.
By: Jessica Scott