For the Joy of it: How to Inspire Children to Love Learning
It’s challenging to be an educator in the 21st-century school system.
You are asked to do an impossible task. To prepare learners for the future within the systems, beliefs and limitations of a previous era. That’s why learners' right to a good education sometimes means educators need to hack the system.
The failings of the system became obvious in 2020. When it was physically impossible to keep learners in class, this challenge was transferred to the virtual classroom.
How do you motivate 14-year-old kids to follow 6 hours of screen lectures without confirming their suspicion that school is designed to torture them?
Stop teaching, start facilitating
Teachers are used to teaching in a top-down approach inside the school system that sees learners as incompetent and unknowing. “Let me tell you something you don’t know yet” seems to be the official approach.
As a learner, you are supposed to sit and listen to the lesson, and retain all that information. It is not that difficult, right?
But now try to walk in the shoes of the learner. To listen and retain information that you are not interested in AT ALL. The simple task of learning becomes an ordeal.
And the more you fail at it, the more discouraging it is. For the learner AND the teacher.
Kelly Davis, the Chief Education Officer at Galileo, has been helping teachers become facilitators. It’s a completely different approach from traditional teaching.
The support that facilitators offer is not directed towards the transmission of information. It is about the emotional and social support to help the process of learning, empowering learners to know that they can learn.
Stop ‘teaching to the test’
Testing is one of the most deeply entrenched ideas in the current education model.
We are so used to teaching to the test that we forget that testing is a tool to reinforce learning, not an end in itself. Many educators get so frustrated with the testing approach that a third of them decide to give up their profession by the end of the 5th year.
It is true that recall, the process by which we remember something we have learned in the past, enhances learning if we use it as a stress free tool. However, making it the final goal of education is simply killing childrens' love of learning, and damaging their childhood.
As Peter Gray says in his book “Free to Learn”: “We have forgotten that children are designed by nature to learn through self-directed play and exploration, and so, more and more, we deprive them of freedom to learn, subjecting them instead to the tedious and painfully slow learning methods devised by those who run the schools.”
There isn’t a right speed to learning
At a traditional school, there is no choice. Either you learn at the pace set by the curriculum, or you ‘fail’. This means that many kids give up on themselves and their dreams way too early.
But we are not all the same.
We don’t eat at the same speed. Our bodies are different so we don’t walk or run at the same speed. We don’t have the same flexibility.
So why on earth have we accepted the practice of teaching 25 kids maths at the same speed? What if they need to go faster or slower? What if they have no need or interest to learn it?
Self directed learning is about learning at your own pace. It is, by far, the most inclusive approach to education that exists. You learn what you are interested in, at the rhythm that works best for you. It is that simple.
When learners are not forced to follow a specific pace, with no idea of needing to compete, they start to help each other. This is a very natural aspect of learning. The learners that are more advanced forget about competing with others, and they start collaborating with them. This is how we were designed to learn; in community, supporting one another.
There isn’t a right thing to learn
It is clear that society has put a higher price-tag on certain areas of knowledge.
STEM education has boomed across the world. At Galileo we understand why, and recognize the importance of these subjects, but we don’t fall into the trap of pushing kids to learn just science and maths. Or forcing them to learn these topics if they dream of being artists and poets.
The truth is, when kids enjoy learning, they actually enjoy the learning journey in different disciplines.
Every journey is different, and it is important not to rush it or force it. We don’t want learning to ever stop being an exciting journey. Maybe the most damaging thing school does is turn learning into work, a task that needs to be completed.
What matters at Galileo is the habit and love of learning, above any specific subject. To own your own education. To practice and develop the love of learning the skills you don’t know yet. That is how you instill a love of learning that will last a lifetime.
Along the way, you’ll find math, biology, art, theatre, coding, and many other disciplines. These subjects are all around us in the world. We don’t need to segment them, we need to live them.
Allowing children to explore their world and find their interests freely and in an unstructured way is called deschooling.
Love of learning begins with love of reading
If there is a catalyst to learning, it is reading. When someone loves reading, suddenly new worlds appear. Imagination flies. Time shifts, and opportunities become abundant.
When a kid loves reading, their world simply expands.
Schools focus on ensuring that kids CAN read. But are less concerned that they love to read, or can see a purpose to reading.
As with any new tool or skill, the purpose of reading matters as much as the mechanics of reading. If you don’t see the point of cooking, why would you be interested in learning how to cook?
When your grandmother involves you in the process of cooking a family meal, you understand that cooking is an art as much as a science. A meal is not just a collection of ingredients, but a masterpiece. Reading can provide the same experience to our kids if they are allowed to love the experience of reading.
Before becoming a non traditional school, Galileo was a book club. Fostering a love of reading has always been at the center of what the school does, and it is a foundation that any educator should aspire to achieve. If your kids don’t leave school inspired to read, their horizons will become much smaller.
Embrace the opportunities the online world has to offer
Pandemic related school closures saw teachers trying to replicate their ‘brick and mortar’ classrooms via Zoom, and wondering why children weren’t engaging.
Online education can be a rich and inspiring experience. But this can only happen if we forget the formats and approaches of a physical school education program. What works (or seems to work) in person doesn’t always translate to the online experience.
We know, it is easy to say and hard to walk the talk.
It is a very natural evolutionary process in humans when a new technology impacts their lives.
When the TV appeared for the first time, TV programs looked very much like radio programs, because nobody knew what could be done with this new medium. The channel of communication was new, but the format and the approach was still the same. Look what has been achieved in the film industry, and now imagine the possibilities of digital immersive learning experiences.
COVID has given us the opportunity to reimagine the way our children learn.
At Galileo we have embraced that opportunity, creating clubs in robotics, 3D Modeling, Virtual Reality and many others. We have developed bootcamps, on demand courses, family experience days and many other activities with the goal of pushing the boundaries of this new channel of communication that has never been pushed to the limit.
The need to develop good digital citizenship in children
As with any new technological evolution, online learning comes with its risks. A kid nowadays faces a wild world via social media and search engines.
At Galileo, we know that screen time needs to be balanced with real world experience. We don’t want kids glued to screens all day.
We say this is the elephant in the ZOOM Room. Everyone can see it, but it is not openly discussed at schools. We do want to talk about it.
The internet is now part of our lives. No matter how old you are, it is there. Wellbeing is important both online and offline.
We are conscious that online education increases screen consumption, the same way remote work or social media increase screen consumption. It is important that we educate ourselves and our children how to use it in a safe, responsible manner, so that we can get the best it has to offer, and minimize the risks.
Digital citizenship training, and support to help parents keep their children safe online are an important part of what we offer.
WANTED: Forward thinking educators who want to foster a love of learning in their learners
If you are a teacher who knows that there is more to teaching than rigid curricula and standardized tests, you could be a perfect fit to work with us.
If you want to end each working day knowing that you have inspired children to love learning, to push themselves out of their comfort zones and expand their views of what was possible for themselves, you will love being a Galileo facilitator.
If you dare to get rid of all we were told in school, and you would like to teach your way, we have a message for you.
Join us in this movement to reimagine education.