This is not an academic post. I’m not getting into the theories of teaching. I’ve completed my fair share of child development coursework. I’ve raised two girls. But let me be clear: I am nowhere close to an expert in how to teach kids.
However, I am passionate about instilling a love of learning in kids. Actually, in all people. It’s a little more difficult to instill it in an adult, but it’s still possible. There’s a curiosity within each of us. It manifests in different approaches.
No approach works for everyone, but here’s something I know for sure: Instilling a love of learning is more casual than we think and is nearly constant. Of course, formal education is essential, but the desire to learn and explore can be welcomed into any situation. In fact, many teachers who are considered effective find a way to instill this environment in their classrooms—a place where students feel welcomed, comfortable, and safe while also be challenged to explore, question, and risk.
Learning involves vulnerability for each of us. We move from a place of not knowing to a place of knowing, but we rarely take the most direct route from the first to the second place. As we help our kids learn, we often focus on getting them from the first place (of not knowing) to the second place (of knowing). Because we’ve traveled the path and understand, we want to explain, have them understand, then check the box. Learning complete. We can be surprised when we, and probably the kids we’re trying to teach, get frustrated.
There are times to say, “Here’s the answer.” But more often, we can point in the general direction and declare, “This is where we’re headed.” When we focus more on the learning process than the acquisition of knowledge, we instill a curiosity for learning. (And the acquisition of knowledge happens along the way.) Learning will be more pervasive over someone’s life when it’s not dependent on our presence.
I know this looks a bit different for everyone. That’s the point. Perhaps it’s important to reflect on your own learning first. Do you see learning as primarily formal education with a tangible result at the end (a degree, certification, or status among peers or community) or a process of learning practical skills as well as widely-applicable concepts? What are you learning in this stage of your life? How patient are you as you learn? How patient are you as others learn?
A love for lifelong learning is a gift that keeps giving.