Monday, January 30, 2017

Joy of Learning

Recently, I attended an event called IGNITE in Delta.  IGNITE evenings are popular in many lower mainland districts now.  Attendees gather to listen to about twelve speakers, each of whom has only five minutes to talk about their educational passion.  The fast pace of the speeches ensures that the listeners' attention is rapt.  As well, the enthusiasm of the speakers is contagious.

Of the twelve presentations we heard last night, the one that resonated with me the most was a teacher who spoke about finding the JOY in teaching and learning.  A few years ago, I read an article in my daughter's ski instructor magazine.  It was about how learning should be serious fun.  That might be obvious on the ski hill, but not so much in our schools.  I remember a school psychologist, years ago,  talking about how a student had "low tolerance for tedium."  Tedium?  Why should anything in school be tedious?

Sure, we need our students to stick with things, practice and persevere.  But if we are going to engage students in true and lasting learning, we had better find ways of making it really matter to the students.

Last week I had an opportunity to meet some teachers visiting from China.  In trying to explain how we plan for teaching in Canada, I found myself saying, "We can't know what to teach until we know our students."  What are their interests, their skills, their talents?  But instead of asking, "What is your passion?" how about asking, "What is your heartbreak?  What do you care about so much in the world that you would like to change?  Climate Change?  Racism?  Poverty?"

There has been an awful lot of bad news in the world lately, the most recent in our own "backyard," in Quebec City.  It is easy to fall into the habit of pessimistic thinking, believing that the worst thing one can imagine is continually outdone and surpassed by actions that are beyond imagining.  This weekend I witnessed two acts of kindness within an hour that lightened my heart.  At the corner of Robson and Burrard Streets an old man was sitting on the sidewalk, wondering aloud why no one was stopping.  He cried that he was hungry and people were just passing him by.  As I was wondering the same thing, a young man in his mid twenties went up to him and said, "Sir, can I buy you something to eat?"  When I looked back they were both gone.  A half hour later I was on the opposite corner.  There was a young man lying on the sidewalk in a sleeping bag.  Another young man bent down and tucked some money into his hand.  They exchanged eye contact and a thumbs-up.  It was a  precious moment of human contact I will always remember.

Back to the idea of joy - we can't have too much of it!  We need to actively seek opportunities to find it, share it and nurture it for our students and ourselves.  Perhaps one day there won't be folks sleeping on sidewalks and begging for kindness.

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