Understanding 11: Learning is Natural

It is our nature to inquire, to explore, to push boundaries and to grow. Teaching is not a matter of developing incentives toward learning, but a matter of removing obstacles between learners and learning. Often, the obstacles have grown out of our own attempts to motivate students externally.

“Children do not need to be made to learn about the world or shown how. They want to, and they know how.” – John Holt

  1. The Paper Town Academy: John Green TED Talk
  2. Amanda Palmer on Creativity as Connecting Dots by Maria Popova
  3. Don’t Go Back to School: How to Fuel the Internal Engine of Learning by Maria Popova
  4. Nurturing Children’s Natural Love of Learning by Jan Hunt
  5. TED Video: Sir Ken Robinson: Bring on the learning revolution!
  6. TED Video: Sugata Mitra’s new experiments in self-teaching


(adapted from Lao Tzu’s Tao Teh Ching)

The best teacher is the one of whom the students are hardly aware.
Next best is the one they love and praise.
Next, the one they fear.
Last, comes the one whom they despise and defy.

When the teacher shows no faith,
the students will be unfaithful.

The wise teacher is humble and sparing in words.
When the task is accomplished and everything is complete,
the students say, “We did it! We did it all on our own!”

–Lao Tzu, circa 500 BC



One Response to “Understanding 11: Learning is Natural”

  1. Dodie Schlueter July 25, 2017 at 7:07 pm Permalink

    As I read the above poetry and paragraphs and watched the Ted Talk given by Sir Ken Robinson, I began to think about how the systematic model used in education, along with high stakes testing, competition to get into the right schools, and the pressure to do everything better and sooner has sucked the joy out of learning for the students going through the US public school system. I believe children are having to “endure it rather than enjoy it”. With our rigid standards and school requirements, the typical school has removed opportunity for students to explore and discover their natural talents. Our schools have followed the same educational model for a century or more now, and have fallen into habit; doing things the way we do because that is how we have always done them. Everything is standardized and paced. We need to return to the idea that learning is an organic process, a natural process. Children are born curious and excited about learning about the world around them. When I went to kindergarten, I was very excited because having come from the farm, I hadn’t had a lot of chances to play with other children. In kindergarten, I learned to play with others. I learned a few academic concepts, most of which I already knew: my basic colors and shapes, how to count to 20, and how to say my abc’s. The rest of the time was spent learning to be a cooperative member of the group, how to play fairly with others, and how to function in this new social environment. In kindergarten today, students are learning to read, and add and subtract. We have continued to shift expectations to an earlier and earlier age. As a teacher in upper grades, I have seen an increase in anxiety, behavior problems, attention problems, attendance issues, etc., through the last 15 years, and I cannot help wonder if it isn’t because the education system needs to do a better job of returning the joy in learning; to feed and provide opportunity for the natural desire to learn. Perhaps we need to focus on “feeding the energy, spirit, excitement and passion” to students by providing opportunities of choice back into our classroom. The video I linked shows this happening through play in a kindergarten and first grade classroom. I think I have some opportunities to apply this idea of “play” or inquiry into my 7th grade math classroom. I have put together a list of ideas for activities by which students could choose to explore and learn. I am thinking I could accomplish this on a weekly rotation basis. The ideas on my list follow, but I hope to expand and develop this as the upcoming school year progresses. My play/exploration list: a table with a jigsaw puzzle, pattern blocks, tangrams, tessellation pieces, 3D blocks, solids, geo-boards, tessellation color sheets, a station to create a geometric drawing or tessellation of their own, balance scale with gram/kilogram weights…..
    This is just a start. I can divide the students into groups, and allow each student to work with their choice once per week for about 20-30 minutes. I am excited to see how my students respond and choose to use this time!

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