Effervescence and insatiable enthusiasm for learning

These are probably words not so known in the translation from Kinyarwanda to English, but teachers, students and parents, you need to learn them. At present we have an education system full of fear, fear of losing or failure, of not achieving; fear is toxic.
Pam Connell
Pam Connell

These are probably words not so known in the translation from Kinyarwanda to English, but teachers, students and parents, you need to learn them. At present we have an education system full of fear, fear of losing or failure, of not achieving; fear is toxic.

Passion is what overcomes fear. A teacher full of effervescence (excitement, passion, over-joy) about their subject and the method in how they teach is likely to instil an insatiable hunger or unquenchable desire for students to want to learn a subject. In turn, enthusiasm (eagerness, keenness) is built in parents to partner with their child’s learning, chosen school and the education fraternity at large.

For all of us, learning is life-long or should be. What makes a life-long learner is an inquiring mind – the more you learn, the more you want to know. What is school for? It seems a question so obvious that it’s hardly worth asking. And yet there are many possible answers. Here are a few (I’m talking about public or widespread private education here (Primary One through to Senior Six) :

To create a society that’s culturally coordinated;

To further science and knowledge and pursue information for its own sake;

To enhance civilisation while giving people the tools to make informed decisions;

To train people to become productive workers.

I think it’s clear that school was designed with a particular function in mind, but it’s one that school has delivered on for a hundred years. Horace Mann is generally regarded as the father of the institution once known as The Common School (now called a public school) and was created shortly after the ‘Civil War’. The Normal School (now called a teacher’s college) was developed to indoctrinate teachers into the system of the common school, ensuring that there would be a coherent approach to the processing of students.

We need to reinvent school. We need to DREAM! If the new goal of school is to create something different from what we have now, and if new technologies and new connections are changing the way school can deliver its lessons, it’s time for a change. Such changes could be, for example homework during the day, lectures at night; open book, open note, all the time; access to any course, anywhere in the world; precise, focused instruction instead of mass, generalised instruction; the end of multiple-choice exams; experience instead of test scores as a measure of achievement; the end of compliance as an outcome; cooperation instead of isolation; amplification of outlying students, teachers, and ideas; transformation of the role of the teacher.

We need school to produce something different, and the only way for that to happen is for us to ask new questions and make new demands on every element of the educational system we’ve built. The dreams we need are self-reliant dreams. We need dreams based not on what is but on what might be. We need students who can learn how to learn, who can discover how to push themselves and are generous enough and honest enough to engage with the outside world to make those dreams happen.

We isolate students instead of connecting them. Virtually every academic activity in school is done solo – homework, exams, writing. Classes might take place in a crowded room, but they too are primarily one-way. How is this focus on the isolated individual going to match up with what actually happens in every field of endeavour? No competent doctor says, “I don’t know what to do, I’ll figure it out myself.” No academic researcher or steelworker or pilot works in complete isolation. Group projects are the exception in schools, but they should be the norm. Leverage the power of the groups and the sharing of knowledge and ideas—that is entrepreneurialism and growth.

When we let our kids dream, encourage them to contribute, and push them to do work that matters, we open doors for them that will lead to places that are difficult for us to imagine. When we turn school into more than just a finishing school for a factory job, we enable a new generation to achieve things that we were ill-prepared for. When we give students the desire to make things, even choices, we create a world filled with makers - entrepreneurs.

The writer is Deputy Principal, Riviera High School. Acknowledgement goes to Seth Godin, author of ‘Stop Stealing my Dreams’.

 

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