Friday, May 20, 2005

Passionate Learners

Just received from author today - thanks Robert. Posted by Hello

Robert Fried is refreshing writer. I wish we had someone in New Zealand writing about the reality of creative classroom teaching, and the concerns of learners, teachers and parents, as they make their way through all the imposed constraints that modern education has degenerated into.

Worldwide there are countless educationalists writing about educational reform but few spending their time and energy working alongside real teachers and students to make real and lasting changes.

Fried is concerned about what happens to the passion and curiosity that all children begin life with. He writes with powerful insight about the need to protect and extend this personal joy of learning and worries that, too often, this passion for learning is dulled or lost by the school experience of too many children.

Fried is on the side of creative teachers whose passion in teaching is ensuring all their students retain this openness and delight in learning. He is aware, as are many parents, that students subtly change their mindsets about learning the day they enter even the very youngest classes. Creative teachers instead, focus on capitalizing on children’s concerns and questions, not curriculum objectives. Their reward is the satisfaction and joy student’s experience, at any age, when their thinking has been challenged and deepened because of a personal concern. It this personalized approach that should replace the, ‘we know best, one size fits all’ mindset of traditional teaching.

The intellectual drive to explore and express, Fried believes, can either be deepened or blunted to the point of extinction by schooling. Certainly many students enter secondary school with much of this self motivation lacking and it evidently decreases further in the first few years of secondary schools - with disastrous results. Current remedies or reactions, blaming all sorts of factors, of more tests and targets, are solutions that belong to a past era.

What is now required is a need to move away from mass education conformist mindset towards personalized learning – tailoring education to the needs of each individual; and not putting the onus on each child having to fit into the school. Schools, as currently arranged, were never designed to educate all children at the secondary level and are obviously struggling now!

Fried shares small anecdote to make his point. When visiting a junior class he asked the children what they were learning in school they replied: ‘Not to run in the hall’, ‘No pushing or fighting’, ‘Sit up straight and don’t talk unless your hand is up’, and ‘Don’t throw stuff on the floor’. When he pressed them about what they thought they needed to learn, they replied: ‘To listen to the teacher’, ‘To be good’ and ‘Not to be bad’. Good children evidently listen to the teacher, bad children don’t, seems to sum up the children’s beliefs.

After reading Fried’s book (along with his more recent book ‘The Game of School’) it is not more money, or resources we need, to ensure all student learn. What is required is a philosophical change. We need to develop schools where children learn what they need rather than what distant adults think they ought to know.

If we could realize this understanding then we all could remain passionate learners. Life long learners being driven by the passion and curiosity we were all born with.

Worth a read; more fun than reading the soulless Ministry of Education Curriculum Statements, contracts and associated documents. Curiosity and passion must replace compliance and coercion in our schools. More passion less graphs!

Less technocratic control and more creative leadership is required!


Anonymous said...

This book sounds as though it is right on target. In N.Z. we need to wake up and refocus on the essential concerns of teaching and learning and in particular developing classroom environments that cater for and respect the interests and perspectives of their students.

Anonymous said...

I am with you but I am afraid, from my experience, teachers think that 'their' programmes are more important than tapping into childrens real ideas, questions and thoughts. Possibly they also have lost faith in their own 'voice' and can't see the point. Anyway 'experts' must know best!

Bruce said...

Could not agree more.

Some classrooms I visit are so boring and too many mediocre. Too much attention to recording 'progess' and collecting data that no one ever uses.And too much data collected is about the easily measured things!

The classrooms that appeal to me celebrate the creativity of the students.They have that 'wow' factor!