By Mac Bogert
The last thing dedicated teachers want to think is that they’re fulfilling all the duties of a babysitter and not much else, says educator Mac Bogert.
“I’m often reminded of Mark Twain’s quote: ‘I never let my schooling interfere with my education,’ ” Bogert says. “Learning is among the most exciting and enjoyable experiences we have in life, yet many students and teachers herded into our school systems view school as something to be endured, as if the school day is one long detention.”
Recent findings illustrate the problem. In 2015, the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) showed a decline in math comprehension from fourth- and eighth-graders for the first time since 1990.
“If you want to know how effective schools are, ask a teenager,” Bogert says. “Why do smart kids who enjoy reading and learning find school boring? We don’t need to make people learn, we need to free them to learn.”
Bogert, author of “Learning Chaos: How Disorder Can Save Education,” (www.learningchaos.net), and president of AZA Learning, which encourages an open-learning process for all participants, says our educational system is outdated. He proposes new methods parents can use to resurrect a love of learning from their kids.
• Ban rote learning. When preparing to teach within a traditional framework, we aren’t stimulating a child’s curiosity. Rather, we’re serving the framework of control. This sort of top-down, listen-without-interrupting teaching is limiting and alienates many types of learning personalities. Instead, foster engagement, which means an open environment where kids feel free to participate.
• Encourage children to sound off. Ever see an interesting news discussion on television? If no one is saying what you want to say, you can become frustrated to the point of turning off the conversation. Students who are shy or otherwise discouraged from engaging can shut down in a similar way. But when they’re included and encouraged to participate in a lesson, their minds stay focused. They feel they have a stake in the lesson.
• Take a cue from the Internet. We’re not starved for information; we’re starved for stories, which have lessons embedded within them. Simply sharing a story invites learning. That’s why you should allow a child’s narrative of inquiry to be more democratic than controlled. Allow him or her to pursue a line of thought wherever it may go, rather than controlled, assigned resources.
“Ideally, your child will be a participant within a hotbed of ideas, rather than a passive listener in an intellectually sterile environment,” Bogert says. “That may not always be possible at school, but this kind of encouragement at home will help them later in life.”
About Mac Bogert
Mac Bogert founded AZA Learning to encourage teachers and students to become equal partners in the learning process, which he details in his book “Learning Chaos: How Disorder Can Save Education,” (www.learningchaos.net). He served as education coordinator at Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts and is still active in the arts for his community.