LOWER ELEMENTARY Posted by Cheryl Allen. Tuesday, March 24, 2015
I have a whole list of ideas for what I want to share here, then stories like this happen right in front of me and my list is forgotten. We had visitors today, as we do most Tuesdays, families that are interested and come to hear about and observe the school. As often happens, I was giving a lesson and did not meet this group of visitors. Some of our students are usually interested in meeting the visitors and answering questions and are welcome to do so. I partially listened as one child spoke animatedly with one of the adults and heard the adult compliment her on behavior and how well spoken she was. I heard enough of the story to know that it had to do with liking school.
After the touring adults left the child turned to the friend she was working with and said something along the lines of, "I always like to tell them that story. It is a true story, but everyone would want to come to school and do fun work (said with an 'obviously' tone and facial movements). Grown ups get so happy when you tell them things like that, I think their work is really hard; my Mom's is." After years of hearing hilarious things I can manage to speak without laughing and share the laughter later when it will not hurt anyone's feelings. Luckily for me I did not need to talk at that moment because I am not sure I could have contained the laughter.
Then I started to think about how sad this is that enjoyment of school is actually a selling point for our school. Learning is a joy?discovering new worlds through discussion, books, maps, microscopes, and all the other many possibilities of learning. Many adults love learning when we are at a museum, reading a new book, watching a movie, in an interesting discussion, or learning a new skill. Many of us even choose to take classes for our (sometimes hard) job, or just for fun. How does the job to just get to learn all day become such drudgery that the fact that we have many times that learning is fun becomes a big deal? Sometimes we say that we make learning fun, but if learning just is fun this is along the same lines as saying we make food edible?not really that difficult and something that should be automatic.
In my observations, the times that learning is most joyful include choice, a connection to other areas of interest, and something to do, see, or listen to that makes you be able to imagine yourself as a part of something. For example I would find a cake decorating class interesting?no one would make me take one, I like to bake so it would connect to that, and hopefully I would get to try out decorating cakes. I do not think I would find a lecture on cake decorating interesting?someone would need to really push me to attend, I might connect to stories about cakes, but I would like to see pictures or actual cakes and at least be able to try some cake. Luckily for me and the student who shared her story today Montessori offers choice, builds on interests shown and stories that have already been shared, and offers many ways to imagine yourself as a part of your work through manipulation of materials, visuals, or listening and discussing. Although I usually try to keep it a secret, I never have to make learning fun because it is just is fun. Now making information accessible is another story?that is work, interesting work, but it is the harder part!