As with every school year, I find a moment early on to ask a group of unsuspecting students the following question.
"Why are you here?"
Recently, I touched on this question in a post outlining my 5 pieces of advice for this year. However, suggesting that one have a purpose in school is different than making the answer (or answers) part of the genuine experience. So, I asked and, as expected, students answered. Though the answers varied in specifics, they generally described the same answer.
"I am here to learn."
I like that answer. Not because it suggests our students have a good understanding of what school is supposed to do, but because it opens the door to an even more essential question.
"Ok, but what does it mean to learn? What does learning look like?"
Call me sneaky, but yes, I lured them into a deep conversation about what school is for and like any good teacher, I refused to be satisfied with the obvious answer. I want my students to think critically, creatively, and collaboratively. I want them to tell me what learning looks like. In other words, if a stranger walked in and saw you in school, how would that person know you are learning anything?
While we did not nearly finish our discussion, we did establish a few ideas worth sharing.
- Learning is happening when students are doing something (active learning).
- Learning is happening when students share what they do with others.
- Learning is happening when students begin to see how their work can get better.
- Learning is happening when teachers ask interesting questions.
As I said, we are not done with this discussion. I plan to write more about what we uncover as we go on. In the meantime, ask your class "Why are you here?" and follow it up with, "What does learning look like?"
I would be interested to know what you find. Feel free to share your findings with me here in the comments section or email me: firstname.lastname@example.org.