Children innately love learning. It is as much a part of their life as breathing. Very early in life children begin exploring their body, their skills and the sensory world around them. They may not think to themselves, “Oh, I am learning” but that is exactly what they are doing as they investigate everything they come in contact with. Young children know how to take the smallest observation, object or surprise and turn it into a learning experience. They employ investigative techniques without even knowing how to defining them as such. They are just curious and want to find out the “what, where, how and why” of everything around them. As the children above discovered in their new preschool classroom there is so much to experience at school…particularly when the teacher has created a conscious environment that reflects their interests, learning styles, families and cultures.
Reflections On Teaching the Love of Learning
Can we really teach children to love learning? Isn’t it more that we introduce them to the joys of learning by expanding on their own inquisitive nature? We CAN invite, inspire, and even encourage a love of learning but can we really teach it? Perhaps the problem word is “teach”. It is a word that can have a direct instruction connotation. But as early childhood teachers we know that teaching means much more than lessons and standards. It is creating an environment of support for children to develop their own ideas, express feelings, take chances, make choices and most of all…grow to be strong individuals.
I remember thinking during my first year as a “teacher” that I had to be “teaching” all the time. I quickly learned from them that some of the best teaching is done when you stop teaching and follow a child’s lead. They taught me how to listen and watch, to ask questions and to be REAL. I quickly realized that to be an effective model I had to be authentic with my own thoughts, feelings, and values. What happened? I fell in love with learning in a way that I never experienced as a child or an adult. They taught me the magic of play…whether it is building a rocket out of blocks, pretending to be a princess or exploring what an insect does. So, yes we do teach children to love learning but we do this by being an observer, a supporter, a facilitator and always a good model!
YOU have to love to learn to be able to teach children how to love learning. Perhaps the best place to start is to look at your own love of learning. You might ask yourself:
• How do I feel about learning?
• How did I feel as a child?
• How do I feel now as a teacher?
• What/how am I still learning?
• What are my learning challenges?
• How can I use these to have awareness about the children I teach?
• Who am I as a learner?
• Why do I teach?
Loving Learning is a Life-Long Process
Learning is not just the Standards. It is a process, a series of experiences that lead to those great “Ah-ha” moments of life. These standards of experiences need to focus on engaging children in investigating worthwhile topics, provide experiences which are intellectually challenging, which also give children a sense of belonging and relationship, and which ultimately encourage children to have confidence in their own intellect. If we “rephrase the goals of education” we can help children learn how to lead a satisfying life. So how do we do take on this task? We look first to ourselves as teachers and then to our environment to be sure that we create a classroom climate that encourages investigation and collaboration. You foster a love of learning not so much by the special materials or activities, but through your responsive, inquisitive attitude. When you provide plenty of time for open-ended, constructive play every day, you create opportunities for children to explore the joy of learning. At the same time, you can extend children’s learning experiences by engaging children in meaningful conversations about their activities. With great open-ended questions and discussions you can invite children to develop their own ideas, construct their own learning by expanding, clarifying and developing their thinking about their activities. It is important to note that it is not just the free-play that is important. It is our skillful and conscious interactions with children that builds not only a love of learning but also constructs knowledge.
(to be continued….)