Monday, April 30, 2012

Teach your kid to love learning

I went to a book discussion about the "global achievement gap" (in my previous post, I reviewed the book and discussed lingering questions).  It was a good discussion, there was a lot of theory and "this is how school should be", but obviously there's a way to go to get to the ideal, fully engaged learning environment advocated in the book.  Here’s some of what I took away from the discussion and my thoughts on the question raised at the end of the discussion, okay, this is great for the long term, but what can we do tomorrow?  

Encourage your child to describe their experiences - Job candidates expect that their resume will speak for them, that they can just hand over the piece of paper and sit back.  But no, employers want candidates to actually be able to articulate the experiences on their resume – what happened, how did they contribute to it, what did they learn?  I like these questions as ones to keep in mind when my kids come home from a field trip or after competing in a sporting event.

Talk about the places you go, the things you see -  As parents, we can help our kids make connections in their daily lives to the things they have learned. When we take our kids to the zoo or to the museum (and we should, even though we’ll be saying “don’t touch that” and wondering how much they are going to charge us when our kid writes his name on the Declaration of Independence), don’t just point stuff out.  Instead of “look, there’s a zebra”, talk about the animal, read the little info sign.  Where does it naturally live, why does it have stripes, what does it eat?  Ask your kid questions to make him think – is that a white animal with black stripes or vice versa?  Why is it black and white instead of orange and black like a tiger?  Can he outrun a zebra?  Consider the career aspects.  Who takes care of the animals, what do they probably have to learn to be able to keep them healthy?

Kids should blow stuff up - this was our Superintendent's joking response to a  high school student’s questions about science classes (and he added the warning that they really shouldn’t because they could get arrested or suspended) – but you get the idea.  They should be encouraged to experiment and wonder, what happens if….

Ask your kids about school, but not just the academics - Is she excited about what she did in school today?  Ask your kid about her school friends.  Does she have any, what are they like?  Who are they?  What do they like about them?
United Cakes of America - made by the kids in my daughter's school at the end of their study about the states

Assignments should require teamwork - In our global economy, being able to work in teams and with a diverse group is important.  At home, partner your kids in doing their chores.  Instead of it being one kid’s turn to wash the dishes, pair them up to get the job done.  Have them work together to rake the leaves or take out the trash.  Let the kids plan and make dinner.  Be more daring and don’t tell them every step to get the task done.  What's this look like at home?  My kids are upstairs folding laundry and debating over whether they should match their socks in two's (because, as my son is arguing, everybody in the family only has 2 feet) or in three's (my daughter's side - she has found 3 socks that are the same).  I trust they will come up with a conclusion.

Watch yourself - In getting their teacher certifications, some teachers video tape and then watch themselves teaching a lesson.  Parents, would you dare?  I watch “The Nanny” so I know that is never a happy video tape and am admitting that I’m going to skip this one myself.  But its a good idea to at least step back and review, even n our own minds, what we just said or did and did it represent the emotion and thoughts we wanted it to?

Appreciate other languages, show pride in a native language - There was a discussion around viewing being bi- or multi-lingual as an asset rather than a deficit. Americans are probably the least bi-lingual people of all the industrialized nations (I just made up this fact, don’t get mad if I’m wrong).  No, you can’t make your kid fluent in French by tomorrow, but you can teach him to appreciate other languages and respect people who speak another language.  Instead of harrumphing at the waitress with limited English, you can mention to your kid how hard it must be to learn a new language and make a living.  Encourage your child to help the ESL student in his class.  If in your household, you speak another language, a native language from where you came, don’t let your child be ashamed of that.  Don’t let them lose their native language just to trade it in for English.  Encourage them to speak both.  Even if they pout about it now, they will be thankful in the long-run.

I liked the teacher’s answer to the question “what is the purpose of education?”  He said that we should have faith that if we teach our kids to love learning and the process of learning, they will be fine.  Its so simple, right.  Not that we teach them to bubble in an answer sheet, because who enjoys that?

Just teach the kids to love learning.

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