If you don’t know me personally, you might not know: I am insatiably curious. I love learning. I always have and hope I always will. Imagine my shock and surprise when 3 of my 4 children revealed that they hate learning. I think appalled better describes the emotion I felt. How is it possible that people in general but more specifically people with my DNA do not like learning? I turned to my husband with a quizzical if not disgusted look on my face. His nonchalance, and perhaps lack of eye contact, let me know everything I needed to know. He didn’t like learning either. What?!!?? Say it isn’t so!!!
What does a person do with information like that? I know my kids are bright. They have all honors and AP courses. Don’t AP students do so well because they love learning? Apparently not. Child #3, my daughter, is the one who told me. Get this…she wants to be a molecular biologist. What does she have, at least a bachelor’s and master’s degree looking her in the face? How can those two things co-exist? How can a person hate learning AND want to be a molecular biologist at the same time?
I thought about it for days. It probably kept me up at least one night trying to work out the logic if any existed. Here’s what I came up with: my daughter (and 2/3 of my sons) doesn’t like learning things she doesn’t find interesting or important. That I can accept. That I can work with. How does she do so well in school? I don’t know. Maybe she has a photographic memory; maybe she is really good at memorizing (yes, sadly, many AP courses are 80% memorization); maybe she has figured out the system. I can’t explain it. Really, it doesn’t matter. What matters is that my children are spending at least 60% of their lives doing things they hate.
Reacting Like a Teacher
Now, how does that affect my teaching? Having children has made me a better teacher than my 29 years in the classroom. Everything my students couldn’t reveal my children have. My students probably thought it wouldn’t be wise to let me know they didn’t like learning. What high schooler wants to be honest with a teacher about that? My own children, though, know they can be honest, and I will still love them. Of course I would have still loved my students, but they couldn’t be sure of that. I get it.
For too many years, I did not realize that who-knows-how-many of my students did not like learning as much as I did. As an English teacher, I would geek out over clever wording, powerful passages, rhyme and rhythm, plot twists. The list goes on and on. Thankfully, my students did not deflate me by telling me they hated literature. Maybe they felt sorry for me or didn’t want to hurt my feelings or didn’t care enough to bring it up. Am I better off knowing it or not knowing it?
Hmmmm. I don’t know how things would be different had I known. At that time, I knew that most kids didn’t like literature and writing. That, I was okay with because I figured I could help them like it because I loved it. I figured they didn’t like it because they didn’t feel confident at it, or maybe someone had turned off their love for it, and I was the one challenged with turning it back on. Or maybe they couldn’t relate to it, and I could help bridge the divide or connect the dots. Sure, there were some students who were unreachable. They didn’t bring anything to the table, and we all know the “lead a horse to water” adage. However, I did get some kids to smile and laugh during class. I even heard the holy grail of teaching, “Wow! That class went fast!”
What Would I Change?
If I could do it all over again, would I change anything? Of course!!! My teaching changed daily based on new findings from that day. I was the crazy teacher who couldn’t use the same lesson plan twice because I saw flaws in it while teaching it, my students had changed, it was a different time of year, we had covered different texts that applied better in comparison. You name it, my brain is always churning trying to find a more efficient and more effective way to teach kids. What I wouldn’t change is the believe that everyone has the capacity to love literature and writing. I would not label anyone with a can’t-do label.
What does all of this boil down to? Get to know your kids. Assume nobody thinks the way you do or values the things you value. Don’t let it get you down. Use the information to make yourself a better, more effective, more powerful teacher. Believe in every kid. Why? Because the kids deserve it.
You can do it. Now, go out there, and conquer that classroom!