Stop Teaching to Activate Learning

Let’s stop being Teachers to Start learning for Children. Our job is not to teach or preach but to reach.

As a Teacher we limit ourselves into boxed roles. Can we seek a better approach which creates freedom for teachers and children? Lets see how we replace or expand role of a teacher so that we maximize the potential of whole community.

Why there is only one Teacher

We can start democratic practices in our classroom to stop it from being an autocracy. Ironically we teach children democracy when the least democratic spaces are the classrooms, schools and homes. Ask Children to teach. When they teach, they learn. Any topic, concept, skill, procedure can be taught by some children to others.

What if we stop telling them the importance of a subject, a topic or a skill and start telling them that they (children) are important. Start giving more importance to their thinking, their way of looking at it, even their desire to not to learn is more important. Remember any child can learn any concept or skill at any age, when they need it. More important is that they realize that they can learn what they want to learn. Once they start believing in themselves, we have started doing our job.

Motivation or Intention

How will it be if we start valuing child’s intention to do something, even before they actually do it? Obviously here we stop motivating them. Do we realize that all children cannot be motivated in the same way about learning something? Some are more motivated to learn history, while others are motivated to learn science and some sports and so on. When they’re aware of their inclinations, they can align their efforts accordingly and we can align our expectations of them.

To stop the craze about getting a great job or becoming someone, let’s start the craze about discovering and developing the self. Perhaps school curriculum and exams have paved too harsh a way which leads to nowhere and gets the child to run the rat race all the time (sometimes her/his whole life). Maybe education is to give them the tools for life and not confuse careers for life. Here are some ideas:

  • Let’s start conversations about millions of things one can do in life (and earn from them if required).
  • Let’s make children meet as many people who are working in all kinds of interesting professions, some not even earning, but living joyfully.
  • Let’s opt for projects which are not to learn something, but to discover the beauty inside and around us – like treks in mountains, making and giving gifts to random people or doing flash mob dance on the streets (surely your children can come up with more ideas).

Assessing self or being assessed by others

Start asking children to organize their learning, so that we stop checking or assessing their learning. Remember, our responsibility is not to ensure that all children learn everything. That is not even possible. Organizing their learning by using visual tools helps children know where they are (just like, while driving we use visual signs to know where we’ve reached). Let each child use organizing as a way to assimilate what he or she has learned.

Start by creating self-assessment tools, so that we stop praising or chiding children. More importantly, they stop believing that adults and others need to assess them, rather they start believing in their own ability to evaluate and start living from the inside-out. The simplest tool is to ask them, “What do you think about your performance / work? Rate yourself.”

Start honoring mistakes than correcting them. We think it is our responsibility to point out their mistakes. Invariably children also pickup this trait and put-down others the moment someone makes a mistake. But mistakes are the building blocks of learning. Let’s consciously create such conditions in our classroom that would invite children to make, celebrate and learn from mistakes (and failures). Following can few strategies

  • Verbally encourage children to make mistakes and stop others from putting them down.
  • When somebody makes a mistake, call it W.I.P – Work in Progress indicating that all of us and our learning and life is a work in progress.
  • Invite children to purposefully make mistakes just to discover something new in themselves and in the world around them. The scientific world calls it experimentation, so many discoveries and inventions happened because of mistakes.
  • Get the whole class to share one mistake each and get everybody to laugh at it. No wonder YouTube is full of blooper videos. Get children to laugh at your mistakes too.

Imposed Discipline Vs Self Management 

Start delegating responsibilities to the children that you usually take on. This would not only reduce your baggage of responsibility but also would help them to take ownership.

The teacher who is free is the teacher who can see. An observing teacher can catch subtle details of the children, can connect with them emotionally and socially, and can be a support in many small but significant ways. Our job is not to teach or preach but to reach.

Start by asking them to design the lesson plans, create projects and homework, check assignments and tests and support their peers who need help and mentoring. When they take up responsibilities, they learn to be responsible, and develop a whole lot of skills and abilities along the way.

We can start getting children to value and focus on their learning style rather than following the teacher’s teaching style. To stop emphasis on one style, start discovering and celebrating multiple styles.

Invite children to experience boss-less life with social responsibility and community learning and group thinking for the good of the whole class. Not majority, but consensus. Not equality, but equity. Not leading, but caring.

In a way, endings happen when we begin something. The ending of teaching is the beginning of learning.