Foolishness

Seth asks an important question:

“Is it foolish to build a school that relies on students to take responsibility, to learn for the sake of learning, to lead–even though we know that this isn’t what they’ve been trained to do since birth?”

It’s a question I struggle with daily. I came to teaching to do exactly that thing. To help students rise above their habits, their stories, their circumstances, their experience, and to ‘learn for the sake of learning’.

Yet at every turn, I’m faced with the appearance of a stark reality. Learning for the sake of learning is uncompelling to most 14 or 15 year olds in our community.

Learning takes effort. Desire. Focus. Curiosity. Thinking. It’s not something we’re given, it’s something we have to actively seek out.

Mostly, learning is hard work, and I just don’t see a widespread willingness to employ these assets.

But why?

Is that a result of poverty? Of many unfulfilled needs on Maslow’s hierarchy?

Is it the result of years of schooling that discouraged students from engaging in these behaviors?

Is it my teaching?

I don’t teach from a book. I don’t give tests. And I don’t value task completion. But I think most students conflate these three things with teaching and learning.

I do ask kids to read challenging texts, and to write. I ask them what they think, and more importantly, why they think it.

I ask them to participate in the design of their learning experience.

I push back when they say, “I don’t know’, or ask, ‘Is this right?’ And I despair (but keep pushing) when I see them give up so quickly…at the very first sign of difficulty.

There are so many things that are hard about teaching, but I believe what I tell my students. We can do hard things. I can do hard things. So I’m up for all of that work, it’s fine.

Perhaps I’m foolish.

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