Nearly two months have passed since returning to school and the excitement of reuniting with friends has subsided, the thrill of new school supplies has worn off, and classroom routines are now well established. No doubt, pencil crayons are getting shorter, new shoes are a little scuffed, and as parents, you likely have been searching for your daughter’s elusive lunch box already! As multicoloured leaves blanket the beautiful streets surrounding the school, your daughters have happily settled in for another fun-filled year of learning.
Recently, at our very first Tiger Talks, I shared our Learning Framework at York House School and our desire to cultivate in our students the global competencies they will need to succeed in life. Yes, we are a university prep school, but more than preparing our girls to succeed in university, we have the great responsibility to develop now, the future skills they will need to navigate successfully in the world, well beyond university. To that end, Alvin Toffler’s quote resonates very strongly, “The illiterate of the 21st Century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those that cannot learn, unlearn and relearn.” Which leads me to a very important question, “How do we cultivate in our students, the desire to be lifelong learners?”
Interestingly enough, I have very vivid memories of important learning milestones in my life. As a young French girl in Grade 1, I remember the feelings of elation I experienced at the precise moment when reading English words began to make sense. I remember the book I was reading, “A Kiss for Little Bear” and I actually remember the exact moment when the ink-filled page transformed from odd-looking letter segments to the unfolding of a beautiful story that allowed me to make clear connections with the world. I’m sure that in that moment, brain imaging would have revealed an explosion of neural activity revealing the wondrous birth of literacy that would set the stage for my lifelong learning.
Do you have a vivid memory of learning? If so, take a moment to reflect on that memory and try to recall the details. In all likelihood, the learning involved a process of attempts, a scaffolding of skills, clear connections made, a succession of setbacks or failures, feedback on progress, additional attempts and then finally…success! This is the beauty of learning. Recently, in what might appear as an ordinary moment, I witnessed this beautiful process of learning as our Yorkies were asked to put away the blue blocks they had been using in a creative exercise. Notice the joy they felt when they finally succeeded. Their collaboration and tenacity in the process is what led them to succeed all on their own. Like glitter bombs exploding in their hearts, their sense of pride was indeed palpable.
We all play an important role in helping our Yorkies become lifelong learners and that is why learning through inquiry, reflection and hands-on learning is empowered at our school. In developing the skills and mindsets to learn, unlearn and relearn, we empower our students to become nimble and highly adaptable when making sense of the world they live in. Unfortunately, for some students, learning becomes more about achievement, right answers and grades. When that happens, learning stops being joyful and it can become a chore or something one must do rather than an experience of wonder and discovery.
While grades are important, what about the sparkle in our student’s eyes when they discover a new bug in the yard, develop a code that launches a new program, when they describe a painting that inspires them or when they finally develop the skills and confidence to overcome the fear of public speaking? In the end, we want their love of learning to go beyond school and sustain them throughout their whole lives.
Let’s make sure our children keep their passion for learning as they grow up. We should aim for them to graduate with the same sense of wonder and fearless curiosity as when they entered school in Kindergarten. As parents, you have an opportunity to influence and build on your child’s natural inclination to remain curious and enjoy learning throughout life. I invite you to read this article which shares ten simple ways you can foster the development of lifelong learning in your children. Your child’s teachers, mentors and coaches indeed play a vital role in your child’s love of learning, but please remember that your child’s most influential and loving teacher is YOU! In an ever-changing world, I encourage you to embark on an important journey of lifelong learning with your children. By doing so, you are providing them with the keys to their future success.