As parents and educators, we can only do what we can do with what we know.
It makes my heart weep that as I try to help my daughter to navigate her GCSE revision, her intrinsic desire to learn has been obliterated. She has become a passive learner in the truest sense; she sees little relevance in what she is expected to “know” at school, which in turn determines her “success” at school.
Her institutionalisation also means that little of what I say to her she regards as constructive; no matter how I try to relay to her the importance of mindset and self motivation, the dominant voice which speaks to her is that of the teacher – ‘this is what you need to know/do to pass the exam’.
I feel helpless and to be honest, have felt that way for most of her school years. If I knew then what I know now, I feel I would have been better placed to nurture within her an intrinsic desire to succeed.
But we only know what we know.
School can leave us, as parents, with that feeling of helplessness; that we don’t know how to help our children with their learning. And that others, professionals, are better placed for this role.
I am a learner.
My daughter does not consider herself one.
I do not need teaching what I need to know.
My daughter believes the exchange of knowledge is solely the teachers responsibility.
I do not undervalue the role of my university tutors but I use them as a springboard to further my knowledge through self directed research. This is how teaching and learning should be – with educators as facilitators.
We are not empty vessels to be filled but that is how many of us are left to feel after our experiences in school.
This is what I love about the approach to education adopted in the early childhood centres in Reggio Emila, Italy. The image of the child is one of competent and creative. Teachers learn alongside the children and teaching and learning approaches are ever evolving as active research informs their understandings about how children learn.
I wonder why this philosophy cannot be adopted and applied for all children, beyond Early Years. To me, this reciprocal approach is the route to effective education and is how learning naturally takes place.
It is ego which gets in the way. As adults, we feel we must be more knowledgeable than our young learners.
As we plan to home educate our youngest, a decision which came after seeing more and more what happens inside schools, this is certainly the approach we have naturally adopted for learning at home.
Not being afraid to say ‘I don’t know, can we find out together?’ is liberating.
Understanding that learning naturally takes place and that children have a natural, innate desire and a need to learn.
As Ken Robinson suggests, the curiosity that children are born with and employ as a way to learn from birth, may actually be stifled through schooling.
We only know what we know, as parents and educators but as this knowledge and understanding develops, we must allow it to permeate and we need to be the change we want to see.
So for now we’re biding our time, waiting for the teenager to finish school so that she can actually begin her journey into creative, lifelong learning.
Because now, I know what I know.