Recently, I was asked to write a guest blog for The Tutor Solution’s website. While I was flattered, I was also quite panicked as I really wasn’t sure what I wanted to write about. Whether an essay, a report, or even a blog post, I have always been hesitant to put my opinion out there in writing. Don’t get me wrong, I have loads of opinions but having one written down is a whole other story.
So, as I was pondering I went about my daily life looking for something to inspire me to put my pen where my mouth is. Luckily, my weekly #edchat topic (a group of educators chatting online about an education topic via twitter) this past week started something bubbling that has finally come to the surface for me. During #edchat we talked extensively about passion and what it meant to have passion in education and life. While I was engaged in the discussion, I still didn’t have anything solid for my guest blog spot. Luckily, it finally percolated into a rolling boil at the end of the week during another Thursday evening homework session.
Here’s what I’ve come to realize and an opinion I think is worth writing down. For our children to be successful students, parents have to be passionate about learning. As an educator I know and was taught that the most successful learning happens when teachers make lessons significant, relevant, engaging, and challenging for each student. But in reality, that is a very tall order. With up to 28 students in a class, the will may be there but the execution of that mantra may not always come to fruition. However, I am also a parent. With a 1 to 1 ratio between me and my son, I can easily call upon these four words to directly affect his learning at school. By focusing on creating an environment at home that draws directly on these four ideas, I can model how to be passionate about learning and help him see the passion inherent in learning too. Focusing our discussions regarding his homework or schoolwork on seeing the significance and relevance in our everyday lives and by engaging him through examples from our own lives and experiences, I have been helping him see the value in his own learning. Now when we go to do his homework assignments, we enjoy finding ways to relate what he is learning and practicing to what we have experienced together. He enjoys the challenge in personalizing his learning and so do I.
Although we don’t have any tried and true formula for these connections, I can give a few examples to help illustrate what we’ve been doing. Take spelling for instance. It’s that one topic that seems to persist in all grades and in all schools and is dreaded by many children around the world. In my house, my son and I try and find examples of time when those words apply to something we have done or experienced as a way to make it relevant to his experiences. If the word was “father” for example, we would draw a picture of our fathers (I join in too!) and tell stories about them such as “Once when my father did…” or “I remember my father wearing….” After getting a few stories out there, we complete whatever the assignment is for the word (normally a sentence). It’s amazing how putting the context for that word makes it more significant and engaging for him. The sentences now are not a chore but a reminder of a wonderful conversation that we had about his dad. The same happens for math. When we are doing word problems, I often change the story so that it is more significant for him. I change the names of the characters to be family members or change the items that they are buying to replicate an experience that we had together recently. Although the changes may be superficial to an adult, they transform the problem into something that matters to him. We normally start with just telling stories and “remembering” the time that we went shopping or bought those items together. After the discussion, the problems always seem to make so much more sense to him. He remembers our story and connects the math to the real-world situation making it easier for him to figure out. While I am sure that his teacher has given him many similar examples, these are ones about him, for him, and including his family. Again, it’s not magic but the relevance, the significance is there helping him rise to the challenge of solving the problem on his own.
So now, as I’ve been reflecting on what it is that I’m passionate about, I’ve realized that I’m passionate about showing my son my passion for learning. Having my son see me as a learner, as someone who’s curious, as someone who wants to connect what he’s doing to our personal experiences has given me so much more joy than I ever expected it would. For me and for my son’s future, that’s something worth writing down and remembering: I am passionate about learning too!
Jessica V. Allen graduated from Edinboro University in Pennsylvania in 1995 and began her teaching career working just outside the Navajo Reservation in Holbrook, Arizona. After a number of years in small towns, she began searching for more contact from the world around her. Her search led her to the international school circuit where she started teaching internationally in 2000 just outside London in Southwest England. After meeting her husband abroad, they moved to Singapore where they continued to teach in international schools. While in Asia, she was trained as a workshop leader for the International Baccalaureate Primary Years Program (IBPYP) in 2004 and received her Masters of Educational Technology from Deakin University in Australia in 2006. Since then she has been working passionately to bring the best of inquiry and international education together with technology. Her latest adventures have brought her to Santiago, Chile where she currently works as the Infant and Lower School curriculum coordinator. She is always looking to make contact with others around the world on Twitter. Follow her: @jessievaz12