5 Truths about Children as Learners
Let us adults become the learners for a moment. What if children hold the real power of learning? What if the teaching equation is backward? As a teacher for over twenty years, young children have repeatedly proven axioms about the power source of their learning. Hint: it's not us. Here are five truths I've learned from children:
1. Young children don't have to wait until they are older to put their learning to work to make a difference in this world. Giving children a purpose for learning outside of their own needs today is the infallible method of bringing concepts to mastery. Latch onto a cause dear to your child's heart. Ask your child questions so the plan for learning is a shared responsibility. The path to teach will appear.
2. Children are watching their parents' attitudes and actions toward learning. Scores of parents have told me over the years that they can't get their children to read. When I asked these parents how many hours a week they modeled reading, I often got the same blank stare I saw from my students--and then the same excuses followed! But I love to read, you might say. But do you make reading a priority like you are asking your child to do? Do you communicate what excites you as a reader? What makes you laugh? How reading transports you away from the reality of today? it's one thing to read books as an adult. It's entirely different when your child begs for your attention and you say, "Sorry! I have to finish this chapter. The book's too good to put down now."
3. Children's brains can process new information more efficiently than adults'. Children's brains are hot-wired for building connections. If a four-year-old can articulate 'tyrannosaurus rex' and distinguish it from a 'stegosaurus', why can't a seven-year-old distinguish parts of an atom? Children's adorable nature can mask their capacity. Don't be fooled.
4. Children don't wake up in the morning and mutter to themselves, "I am going to be a jerk today and refuse to learn." Childhood is all about learning. It's a child's purpose of living-- to explore all the possibilities the world and its people have to offer so the child can step into it with fullness and enjoy living it.
5. Remember: Not one child who resist learning today will look back on life and comment, "I wish I hadn't wasted all that time learning. " Every second we pour into a child's learning is an exponential investment in their hopes, their contentment, their joy. Life, somehow, ensures that every strand of knowledge is threaded into future meaning and purpose.
Trust these irrevocable truths of learning. Incorporate their certainties. Give the innate power of learning back to children. They cannot fail to help you.
Barbara Lynn-Vannoy was nominated for Disney American Teacher Award and Colorado Teacher Award and is the author of The 10 Greatest Gifts We Give Each Other: A Memoir on the Magic of Marriage Vows and upcoming children's book, Read Me to Sleep Tonight.