If I’ve learned anything about learning, it’s that it is meant to be enjoyed. If it’s not enjoyed, it defeats the whole purpose–learning is meant to be exciting. One of my favorite things is to have a new concept click, to come to a new realization, or to learn a fascinating fact. We all love “light bulb” moments. The trick is to make each day of learning a light bulb experience.
We can look at learning as going to the grocery store to buy standard products that we use to eat and survive: bread, milk, eggs, apples. We mechanically walk through the aisles looking for exactly what we need, pay for it, and hurry home to get on to other tasks. Or we can look at learning like a child views going to the candy store. A visit to the candy store is a special occurrence, and the child looks around in awe. They savor the experience and look through every piece of candy trying to find what they would enjoy the very best. They then use their hard-earned stash of coins and dollar bills to buy the candy. The candy doesn’t even last for a whole day because the child quickly eats the much-anticipated candy. They get a “sugar rush” from eating it so fast.
I prefer the second analogy. The “candy” called learning is even better because it’s healthy for you! As future teachers, we will be able to either instill this excitement and joy for learning or we will contribute to students’ frustrations, dislike, or ambivalence toward learning.
This love of learning and the ability to enjoy it is transmitted from teacher to student subtly. It’s not something that can be taught, it’s something that has to be shown. That means we first have to acquire it ourselves. For example, when a student is struggling with a math problem, we can say, “I know, isn’t this kind of long and hard? But we need to do it.” Or we could say, “This is a challenging concept but after we work at it it’s going to be so exciting when it finally clicks.” In addition, instead of merely explaining a topic, we can show how interested we are in the topic as we discuss it. As I discussed in my last post, letting students ask questions can also be a way to stimulate enthusiasm. Through everything we do, we should make sure our classrooms and our lives feel like one big candy shop of learning.