What is learning?
I think we may have the wrong memo about education.
I think currently we have a sense that learning occurs whilst sitting at a table, pen poised over worksheet or book.
That reading is about working through 44 phonemes before heading to the numerically ordered reading scheme.
That writing is being able to use reflective clauses and the present perfect.
That maths is a tick sheet of learnt skills.
That the arts can be sidelined whilst the ‘catch up’ of ‘more important’ core skills can be made.
The memo is wrong.
From my time with children as a teacher, childminder, nursery leader, babysitter, parent and step parent; from my time being a human, I know this is not the best way.
We learn because we need to.
We learn because we want to.
We learn to walk because we want to explore and reach things.
We learn to talk because we want to communicate and get things.
We should learn to read because we want to immerse ourselves in another person’s world, to see what they have seen, learn what they have learnt.
We should learn to write because we want to share ourselves with others.
We should learn to use numbers, operations, shape and data because it enables us to better live in our environment.
We should learn to embrace our creativity whether physical, musical, artistic or dramatic as it allows us to make sense of all of the above, to make sense of everything, to live in our skin, to connect to others and understand ourselves. It is not a ‘sideline’ it is our underpinning.
In order to teach we need to develop a passion to learn. To be curious and love life, to understand where we came from and where we might go, to be respected as humans.
It is our children that will take our place and better our world.
Children will become adults, it is a necessary fact. We need them to become the best adults they can be. To stand on their own two feet, understand the changing world and adapt to live their best lives.
We need to provide a curriculum where children become life long learners. Knowledge is out there, we just need to give children the skills to access it and more importantly the passion to want to.
Let us read and share our own passions with children. Read to children, as much as you can, from birth until they read to you. Read real books, difficult books, poems, stories, newspapers, letters, road signs and menus.
Write with children, as much as you can. Show how you use written language, help them write letters to friends, rules for games, complaints against injustice, recipes for cakes, magazine articles, fact cards. Ask their opinions about your own writing, does it make sense? Do they like it?
Go into the world, use money in shops, get on trains and read timetables (all within a safe context of course), plan bedroom layouts, collect data about birds in the garden, see if more can be attracted through different food.
Go into the world, how does it change through the seasons and why? How has it changed since you were little, your grandparents, the dinosaurs? Why? How can we affect positive change in the future?
Share the world you see and feel. Play sport, run, dance, sing, be dramatic, watch others perform, splatter paint, write down powerful feelings and watch them burn on a bonfire, create and destroy, create and share.
We need to teach children how to live and that is done through life.
In order to build a good curriculum should we not look at what is needed to be a healthy adult? What skills does life require?
We need to teach children not just how to survive but how to thrive
We need a new memo about education.
Living is learning.