Tell me and I forget.
Teach me and I remember.
Engage me and I learn.
I recently visited one of our 5th grade classrooms to ask students how they feel they are engaged and empowered in their learning. Among the many examples they shared with me was the following:
Ben – “We have a lot of freedom in our learning, but it’s contained freedom and its challenging freedom, because we can choose the things that we do. I think it makes people want to learn more because you’re learning more of what you want to learn. If you didn’t want to learn what you were being taught, it would be harder to learn and focus as much – and you’re supposed to learn at school.”
Max – “I like that sometimes we’ll study something small and the whole class will wonder about this really big thing and keep asking questions and I like it because the teachers aren’t stiff, like ‘We’re going to do this.’ They’ll sometime make time for the things that we’re curious about. For example, when we were learning about the Great Depression, and we were trying the understand the bank failure part of it. We (students and teacher) did some research and then asked a parent who works in banking to visit and explain better the banking failures.”
As a result of the students’ curiosity around the concept of bank failure, their teacher invited a parent who works in the bank industry to visit their class and talk to them about his work in banking and to explain bank failure. He spoke about the Great Depression, how banks work, and the variables that affect the market. The visit created a tangible bridge between history and current topics.
When teachers are not required to teach to standardized test content, as is the case in independent schools, they are able to listen to their students’ curiosity and to go with the students where the lesson leads them. Both teacher and student are empowered and better engaged.