Three tiny thoughts on Education (basically one - Why do we teach what we do?).

We - collectively as parents and the educational system at large - get so locked into what we should learn. What our kids should learn.

It would be helpful to create more ongoing conversations about why we choose to teach what we do.

Children intently studying on the banks of the Columbia River in Washougal, WA on a late Spring school day

Children intently studying on the banks of the Columbia River in Washougal, WA on a late Spring school day

Why do we choose to teach one thing and not another?

Why have we chosen to categorize the subjects we learn (and teach) in the way that we have?

Why is it important to learn ___ or ____ or how to ____ or why ___ was born in ____ or how the spread of ____ led to the ___ of ___?

I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with much of what we teach or the way we teach it. That’s a different conversation. I’m simply saying that doing a better job of explaining -

or better yet, talking in a multi-part dialogue about why we choose to focus on some areas of knowledge and learning and not focus on others

would be a worthwhile use of time and resources.

Handsome lad catching a crawdad on a hot summer day on the river.

Handsome lad catching a crawdad on a hot summer day on the river.

When people have a motivation to learn something, they’re likely to do a better job learning it.

Three things that help to get most anyone motivated to learn something are:

  1. understanding why learning that thing is important and relevant…and how it can be fun, even if it’s not every single moment.

  2. creating a sense of anticipation that even when learning something tough, that it can and will be enjoyable with the right attitude. a good chance to talk about patience, mindset, and the lifelong skill of asking good questions; the latter being a skill that is sadly lacking in many adults. if something isn’t interesting or you don’t understand how it’s relevant to anything you should know now or in the future…ask! And teachers, parents, myself…let’s not get impatient or irked at students when they ask: why are we doing this? that is a great question and one that kicks off a great discussion on why we should be learning that particular topic.

  3. making the process of learning that thing enjoyable with multipart dialogue and assignments that make sense. in other words, ensuring there’s a reason for doing them that is motivated and offers opportunity to learn something tangible (i.e. a geology of a particular place) to learn something intangible (a particular character trait), and to spark an interest that will continue off the page. away from the assignment. The equivalent of telling a kid to read for twenty minutes and coming back an hour later to find them buried in the book. on their own.

Especially the third.

Magic. Doable, repeatable, possible magic.

The very best photographers know what to crop out of an image.
They simultaneously pull focus to the most important part, the focal point, and they - sometimes - make you want to know what’s off the edges of the image. They get your imagination wondering about what’s happening off the frame.

The very best writers know what to leave out of their stories.
They simultaneously pull focus to the heart of the story, and they - usually - tantalize your imagination with wanting to know more about the characters and subplots and what might be happening off the pages. They leave you wanting more. In a good way.

The very best teachers and educators know what to put just out of reach for their students.
They simultaneously keep focus on the topic they’re teaching and learning about alongside their students, and they provide gateways of imagination and excitement and opportunity to learn more than what they’re actually teaching.

They get them to reach for what’s just beyond. And when someone is reaching, they’re propelling themselves forward independently. Not being dragged.

What you leave out can be as important as what you put into something.

vintage clipboard with post-it note that says %22I can spelle%22.jpg