Heather’s last post mentioned that I changed my approach to teaching recently. It’s hard to say what that means exactly. During a recent teacher in-service meeting, I was writing a list of what I was trying to accomplish as a teacher (in trying to think through another question). It wasn’t easy. We very often talk about how to teach effectively without really nailing down what to teach. Curriculum is one way to answer that question. What to teach can be boiled down to standards and objectives, but what determines those? Why does X or Y content matter?
So, why leads to what which leads to how. But how do we typically answer the question of why? We march out the usual suspects. College. Career. Informed citizenry. Contributing to society. These are not terrible whys, but they all miss the point. They all make learning a means to some end, a cause to some effect. I don’t deny that learning is an investment in the future. But defining it that way robs learning of its primary purpose.
We’ve made learning into labor that produces more labor in hopes of having some time and resources left over for mindless leisure. In doing so, learning becomes a loathsome box to check on the way to relieving ourselves of intellectual growth as adults.
What’s changed for me is the desire to present learning as an end in itself. Advances in technology (produced by learning) allowed more people the leisure to engage in art, philosophy, science, etc. Learning is a rest from work, not the work that leads to rest. We’ve got it quite upside-down.
Not sure how to instill that mindset in students, but I think it starts with passion for content knowledge. That’s something I can model by going off-script just enough by connecting the current topic to analogues in other subjects, places, or time periods (e.g. today). Learning is not just downloading information, but analyzing and synthesizing it. Seeing something in a new way as each of us is uniquely positioned to do. Making it a creative act is what makes learning an end. A pleasurable one.