CHILDREN learn, despite the teachers effort to make them do OTHERWISE

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This is an old phrase I keep resurrecting because I do think we teachers do need to realise that children learn anyway whether we are there or not. The only thing we can really hope for is that we do manage to have some impact on them.

I remember moving from the New Zealand system to the British system of learning. Though the New Zealand education system was based on the British system, over the years to two did start following their own tangents. Things may be changing now but what I do know is that when I was teaching in New Zealand it was all about creativity and experience based learning.

However, when I moved to the British system it seemed to be much more prescriptive and focused. It seemed to me that both sides had a good argument, however one thing that the New Zealand system had when I was there was a fear that there were too many non-creative teachers out there and so many teachers were falling into the ‘dead-wood’ zone and as a result were becoming dangerous for the educational quality.  Saying that however, there still seemed to be plenty of children moving through the system and achieving, at least academically internationally as well as locally.

The insurgence of a more prescriptive approach was really an attempt to get the teachers to be more in charge of what goes down in the classroom in terms of learning objectives. The overall result? Perhaps some improvement in the outcome, but overall the results were very similar in the long run. However, what was positive was that the teachers who were floundering had something to latch on to and the creative teachers were either able assimilate their creativity into the ‘prescriptive approach’, or left.

This all leaves us back at the bottom line. Do children learn anyway? And if they do, where do they get their guidance from?

It used to be the family who dominated the style of learning or the religious moral guide presented to them from their Church, Temple, Mosque etc. The impact of media and peer pressure was not considered to be any kind of reliable source of education. Well that’s certainly not the case today.

The impact of peer pressure in particular is now considered one of the most significant short term learning tools out there. Peer pressure is now closely linked to the media pressure, or social media pressure, which is the current flavor of interaction. The teacher is important, but not as important as it used to be. The family however still remains quite important in the long run, and the religious affiliations are powerful….if you follow a religion that is, if not (which in the western world means most don’t), then it will fall back ultimately on the family, and if the family fails, the teacher will be the next best thing.

This again gives rise to, do children learn because of the teacher? Or do they learn despite the teachers efforts to do otherwise?

Every teacher knows that one size does not fit all, and it is that individual attention that makes the students feel they are being understood and therefore can learn something. But my question is, if the learning ‘rubric’ (if you like), is highly prescriptive, how can every child really learn under this system? There will always be a feeling that the teacher is targeting the middle ground rather than catering for the extremes.  At the same time, children are increasingly becoming empowered to pursue their own directions, which is great, but this can sometimes leave the teacher at the curb wondering what went wrong.  The prescription that was delivered didn’t solve the problem.

Every great teacher knows that a child learns despite what they try to do to them in the classroom, but the most they can try to achieve is that the learning the child does gain is at least useful and productive and will help them in the future.

This I believe is the teachers goal today and in the future, to ensure all children and young adults and even older adults, do get the chance to experience a mixture of learning styles. Teachers in the future are there to make the student feel supported for any creative approaches taken and should always be seen as a reliable sounding board for guidance and direction should the student want it.

To many this sounds a bit frightening, like the child is going to be left to be out of control, but my experience has shown me that they learn what they want to learn anyway, and always have, it’s just that today we are more prepared to recognize it.

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