Tuesday, January 19, 2010

The Joy of Learning

My wife and I are both the oldest children in our respective families.  Naturally, we started having kids before our sibs.  It's interesting to watch all my nieces go through the stages we have already passed through.  Sometimes it's a relief to say, "I'm glad we're through that!" and other times it's "I miss when they were that age."  My youngest niece is 7 months old.  Her entire life centers around exploring and learning.  She is so excited about everything around her.  I really do miss that stage of my boys lives.  Samantha is learning so much in such a short period of time.

A kindergarten teacher told me today that she chose that grade level because "it's the last fun grade in school."  What?!  That can't be.  Certainly it takes us at least three or four years to beat the enjoyment of school out of them doesn't it?  Thinking about my niece made me think about how I could create that type of environment in my classroom.  What would it take to foster a "I want to learn and explore everything" attitude in my classroom full of learners?  Tonight's #edchat addressed that very thing.  How do we best promote student ownership in their learning?

There were a lot of great ideas thrown out.  I'm looking forward to trying some of them out.  Heck, I'm even looking forward to trying out some of my own ideas :-)  That's part of the problem.  My friend @kellyhines concluded her participation in tonight's #edchat with this tweet:
Something about tonight's #edchat isn't sitting well with me tonight. We know the what & the how, so why isn't "ownership" happening?
I confess.  Ownership isn't happening in my classroom as much as I'd like.  Sure, almost all of my kids enjoy my class, even love my class.  What kid wouldn't when their teacher is as big a goofball as I?  Plus, I'll stop a lesson on a whim or a student prompted question to go off on a tangent and project all the findings on the screen.  But where is the ownership?

Last fall I set up all sorts of goals.  My classroom was going to be a "learning community".  Students would be self-directed, wholly invested learners.  It went great for the first quarter.  Then I got tired of staying up until 1:00 am every night.  All sort of other deadlines hit me.  I was negotiating philosophical perspectives with my PLC.  All I had time for was the usual.  Our first week back from winter break, one of my kids asked, "When are we going to do all the stuff like we used to do?"  I was caught red-handed.  I was convicted of my own sin.

To answer Kelly's question, it's hard to make it happen every day.  Some of us have a lot of bad habits to unlearn and even more good habits to learn.  There is the reality of NCLB, RttT, and every other false measure of accountability (editorializing? yep!).  There is the pressure we all feel to make the grade.  We talk about wanting to dig all the way to the bottom of Bloom's, but something about those pacing guides and standardized testing keeps us from leaving the shallow end of the pool.  But we still have to strive for it everyday!

I'm idealistic enough to believe we will see more student ownership of learning.  I believe it will happen because the number of us who share our own joy of learning is growing each day.  It will happen because there will be enough of them who don't get sucked dry by the system and they will become teachers themselves.  They will force shared ownership/leadership in their schools and districts.  And I believe I will see it in my day.

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