Every day you live and hopefully learn; but why is there such a disconnect between learning perceptions and real learning?
Learning’s definition over the years has changed. The United States began formal education using the Prussian model in order for students to learn how to be obedient workers, adding standards in an attempt to define guidelines for learning, and morphing into the current testing of learning culture choosing arbitrary factual content and skills to prove consumption of learning.
None of these define real learning.
As a classroom teacher, I sometimes tried to have my students write down what they learned for the day. It was my attempt to demonstrate that if you’re paying attention, you really can’t escape learning. Whether it’s something intended as your focus like learning how to design and code a new kind of Enderman (my son’s morning self- assignment) or learning how to contrast the differences in types of triangles, you’re learning.
Unfortunately, when I’d ask students to write what they learned, I usually got those pat answers that most teachers love; but that drive me absolutely crazy. Statements like, “I learned how to multiply fractions”, or “I learned that a descriptive paragraph uses adjectives”. Learning has come to be defined as something “taught by an instructor” that I may or may not be able to do tomorrow, next week, next month, or next year.
Those are the mindless regurgitations of textbook definitions. Most often, they aren’t what children really learned; just what a teacher wants to hear. Luckily for me, (after much prompting and persuasion) I’d also get answers like, “I learned that sitting by Drew when he’s in a bad mood keeps me from getting my work done”, or “When I have a basketball game at night, I need to start my homework earlier to be able to finish it”. While those statements may not include the learning target in math or science, they do demonstrate true reflection, contemplation, and learning. They are valuable insights that will improve future understanding.
Lessons like those will be applicable in almost every area of life. While it’s great to hear, “I know how to multiply fractions” because it’s a goal achieved, outside of the classroom it had limited applicability. We all incorporate learning into our lives, but much of what we learn comes as a surprise. We stumbled onto it when we need it.
Some learning is delivered to us, but I’d venture to say, most of it we stumble onto out of necessity or to make our lives easier. We need to learn something, so we do- whether it’s exhilarating and engaging, or a laborious and repetitive process.
I find it interesting that most people can’t wait to graduate because they’ll finish formal schooling and often say, “I won’t have to worry about learning anymore!” Nothing could be farther from the truth. In fact, you’ll probably be doing more real learning (unless you grow stagnant) and less passive memorization (unless you attend a lot of mindless meetings).
You also learn many seemingly inconsequential things every day like not to talk to your friend Cindy after 9 pm because you’ll be up too late at night and have trouble getting up in the morning, to put in laundry when you think of it (because you’ll get busy and forget later), and to leave your house early on certain days because of weekly schedule changes. We have to think about these choices to make the decisions, but first we have to learn what works and what doesn’t. …pretty much on our own. This is the kind of learning that serves our well- being every day. It makes our life easier and more manageable; or it can really complicate matters when we don’t quickly learn our lessons. And, it doesn’t come with a book. There’s no manual on life. You learn as you go on the fly.
If you’re that person who’s always late or wakes up tired every morning, chances are you haven’t learned those lessons yet. Unlike school lessons, we’re doomed to repeat real life lessons until we find ways to reflect upon changes we could make and focus on learning how to improve. One of the biggest struggles for many children is that parents often short-change the learning. In the mind of a supportive parent, it’s called “helping”, but often we bail out our children to their detriment. Parents often postpone the lesson when they take care of things instead of handing the lesson over to their child.
Then there’s a much deeper kind of learning usually labeled as wisdom. It’s not something that you can set out to capture. It’s the part of my homeschooling day when my child looks up and says, “Wow. When I get started earlier, I can really get things done.” There’s an analysis going on in that mind. There’s some experimentation, but there are conclusions being drawn all on his own as I sit back and think, “He’s finally realizing.” It’s a slow and gradual building of learning that you acquire through deep thinking and lots of reflection. It’s the part of learning that is the most precious, the most applicable, and the most highly valued; yet most people pass it by in deference to a drive-thru system of delivery learning. It’s like comparing a 10 course gourmet meal with a fast food hamburger. One takes time and savoring while the other is quick and bloating. Which do you usually do? Which kind of learning is the one we want for our children?
Learning never ends.
What have you learned today?
Already today I learned that a seemingly “great” recipe for pancake- muffins just didn’t work for me. It was kind of like eating an apple that tastes like a peach. Weird.
Oh well, live and learn.