I say over and over I want Monroe Country Day School students to love learning. I want students everywhere to run into school with the same excitement they run into Disney World. I often laugh at myself because I can certainly say I did not enter Latin class with the same desire that I entered math. I loved math! I looked forward to math every day, it always offered a new puzzle to solve. Miss Bell was not warm and fuzzy, but she loved math and believed that every one of us was capable of learning and enjoying the victory of correctly solving complex problems. She did not give us candy or stickers but she smiled and gave us the nod of approval when we made a breakthrough. How did she help build that desire to dig deeper, enjoy challenges and not be afraid of failure?
I watch MCDS teachers everyday as they try to bring out the best in our students. Each teacher is so different and has such different teaching styles yet each has one thing in common with Miss Bell. They love teaching and their students! They are excited not only to have students share their work with me but to have students talk about what they learn.
So what are some recommendations that the experts at We Are Teachers make on developing a love of learning? The first is teaching children to be critical thinkers. There is an adrenaline rush in solving a tough problem. Somehow in a world not data or internet driven Miss Bell sensed this and inspired us to tackle the tough problems.
Meet kids where they are is number two on the list. Can you imagine how bored you would be if you sat in class and the teacher spoke only Latin? Soon you would be cutting up or just checked out of class. Learning is building on prior knowledge and understanding. All students do not learn the same way or start with the same base. As educators and parents we have a responsibility to build that prior knowledge so children are ready to solve the tough problems.
Another recommendation is to chase the question. In other words, don’t just answer a question but follow the initial question with comments and questions that encourage the student to use analytical strategies. Don’t think you have to be a great math teacher to do this. At the dinner table, in the car or waiting in line are great times to kindle the fire for learning.
I hope all children have a Miss Bell in their life and develop a love of learning!
Rita Dickinson is the owner and director of the Monroe Country Day School.