A will or a whim?

Will or whim
Photo by Amaury Salas on Unsplash

We are all able to learn what we want to learn and we will stay at it as long as it takes until we’ve developed our skills, or amassed as much knowledge as we want to. Regardless of lessons, if we want to learn, we will. It doesn’t get any simpler than that. We’ll manage to find the book that we need, to talk to the people we need to talk to, and eventually it will all fall into place. This doesn’t mean we will know all we want to. Learning involves effort, and the desire to be able to do something alone doesn’t necessarily entails a clear view of what is needed to develop a certain skill. For instance, one might wish to play the guitar as well as Eric Clapton, but this very one might not be willing to dedicate him or herself as many hours a day to learn how to do that. This, actually, is a good way to differentiate a will from a whim.

In days gone by, there was very little students could choose to learn from for the mere fact that there was very little available to them in terms of sheer amount of information. Students relied on what they could get from their peers, teachers, and parents. This meant that it was much harder for them to truly know what they wanted to learn. Just the same, it was very easy for teachers to decide what was important for students to learn. However, the funny thing is that teachers themselves have always had very little say in what they may choose or not to teach – in most cases, they ought to abide by a pre-established curriculum and just make sure all is dealt with. That means that it isn’t even what teachers consider important for students to learn that we bring into the classroom – it is what other people once considered relevant, be them the textbook writer or the curriculum designer. Would teachers also choose to teach their students different things if they were made to reflect upon the kind of impact and responsibility they have on the building of a citizen?

Currently, information is everywhere, and so is the possibility for learning. Schools, teachers, students, and even parents have already realised that learning takes many forms. Why is it that we still fight the need for a major shift in the way that we approach teaching, which is the one element in the teaching-learning dichotomy that we can control? Is it just fear of change and failure? Have we just reached the point in which our culture of tests and failures have made us fear necessary change?

In detriment of all the advances and the myriad possibilities in the hands of those with a mobile-Internet combo, we still choose to take the easy way out and walk into obsolescence little by little. We still choose to take the path of least resistance, the one that will cause us less trouble and inquiries from students, parents and teachers alike. We seem to wilfully ignore the fact that humans are capable to learn what they want to learn. We ignore that access to information has made it less and less relevant for us to tell people what they want to learn. We still insist on teaching what we want others to learn. And we choose to be blissfully ignorant to the fact that teachers are a lot more relevant than they might want to be in any learning scenario simply by choosing not to take advantage of all the opportunities out there to teach in a much more meaningful manner. We talk a lot about changing education – but for many this is just a whim, it’s not a will. What do you think?

3 thoughts on “A will or a whim?

  1. I agree to the fact that teachers should start trying out new ways of teaching and with that, maybe change the education, but I wonder who’s going to take the risk?

  2. I like what you say here, and I have a comment about it. I think that there are two things to consider when talking about / paying lip service to change. The first is the power some teachers feel they should have in the classroom. And the second is the powerlessness most teachers feel they have to change the status quo. I think both these things are related to the ways we were taught as students, and also the ways we have been trained to teach.

    As an example, I teach in the most wired country in the world. But I’m forbidden from using tech in the classroom. I am afraid to break these rules, but I think it is important for my students to learn how to use internet tools critically to direct their own learning. However, don’t really feel qualified to teach this way, since I have little experience with it. In a lot of ways, it really does seem simpler to maintain the status quo in spite of all my beliefs to the contrary. So I understand the conflict teachers might be having here.

    Yet a part of me feels it is unfair to call it a whim. It’s a lot to ask teachers to risk their livelihoods to put their deeds where their mouths (and hearts) are.

    Thanks for reading.

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