Breathing life into learning
Recently, I was touring a project-based elementary school. On the door of one of the classrooms was this sign: “I know you are excited to learn. And because you are excited to learn, I am excited to teach you.” This pretty well captures my own sense of why I teach. It’s that word excited, used liberally over the course of those two sentences, that captures my sense of how learning should feel. My vision for TransformEdu grows out of my experiences in academia that suggest that, while students thrive in an environment based on the values of autonomy, rigor and relevance, there is sometimes resistance to approaching these values in an holistic way, as necessarily intertwined components of a learning-rich environment.
There's urgency in overcoming this resistance. There is a growing fatigue in the classroom, palpable, an extension of the fatigue brought on by the high-stakes testing culture and emphasis on college and career readiness in primary and secondary schools. My student captures it well:
“I think this semester I have become particularly bored with the monotony of school. While I have found my courses to be engaging, I have found it to be increasingly more difficult to reach a level of eustress that allows me to be productive and motivated.... It is not that I am unhappy or sad, but rather I am disconnected from my emotions and have found it difficult to always keep in mind the reason for why I am doing this in the first place. I am 19 years old, and, although I have career goals, I have no idea if that is actually where I will end up or what I will end up loving. While it would be nice to be able to jump straight into a career and figure out right away if it is actually something I am passionate about, our societal structure has made it increasingly difficult to do that. Within today’s society, it is critical that I attain an undergraduate degree before I begin learning about what I truly believe myself to be interested in.”
We owe it to our students to fashion a culture that feels connected to where they want to be going. We owe it to them to make clear that the learning that happens in the classroom is not a waste of time. We owe it to our students to create as many opportunities as possible for them to see how their learning translates into a path determined by them.
We also owe it to ourselves, as people who are passionately engaged in our subject matter, to create a classroom culture that effectively communicates our excitement to our students, that helps them to see why we're so excited.
The point is... resistance and fatigue are not necessary components of a classroom. It can feel different, more alive, more authentic. When the energy shifts in this direction, the learning comes to life, becomes embodied, becomes relevant for everyone in the room.
We've seen it happen again and again in our own classes, and we want to help you see it in yours.