Although I’m not a teacher, I follow some education blogs. I’m interested in how curriculum influences thinking on what’s important (or not) in society. In addition to the what of curriculum, I’m also interested in the how of teaching: what are educators doing to engage their students? What are they doing to inspire kids to become lifelong learners?
When I say a lifelong learner, I don’t mean someone goes to school forever, although I suppose it could include that if you had the money and life circumstances. I’m thinking more of the “I can do this” mindset. When I took training in adult education, an instructor of one of the courses said that working with adult learners requires a sensitivity to the fact that no adult likes to look stupid. Walking into an education event isn’t always easy; adults are supposed to be capable and know all. The idea of school in any form is daunting for some.
Adults come to learning with a lot in their bags. Before they arrive, they’ve had to balance the requirements and responsibilities of the rest of their lives in order to walk in. Some may never totally arrive, because they must be alert to life outside the learning environment- the parent who is ill, the kid who is skirting a fever.
In my former workplace one of my coworkers used to start her sessions with “There’s no such thing as a stupid question.” She provided index cards for people to record their questions and submit them anonymously for her to answer if the session didn’t cover them. She said the range of questions was always interesting, and people always gave her feedback that the anonymous option was appreciated.
Supporting people to ask questions without shame sounds simple, but its impact can be profound. Think of someone who has an illness they don’t understand and they need to learn how to take medication. If they don’t, a domino effect of worsening health could follow. Supporting kids to learn their strengths as learners and respecting the importance of questions will help them later in life when they’re in situations where they need to learn- about their health, about an opportunity, about a decision to be made.
Reading about education gives me insight and hope. I tip my hat to the many teachers working hard to improve curriculum and learning environments: the kids are our future, and we need to prepare them to grow up. How they are taught and what they learn about learning are as important as the subjects.
Image: KConnors, Morguefile