Ellie is my oldest, and she is 5. Sometime in the past year or two she said to me, "Daddy, I don't ever want to stop learning and dancing." Once the goosebumps subsided and the tears of joy dried up, I composed myself and gave her a big hug and told her how proud of her I was and that I also hoped she would never stop learning and dancing.
Yesterday our superintendent forwarded us this article. This is a discussion and a debate that has been going on for quite sometime now in our country, and one I've enjoyed engaging in (though not nearly enough publicly). I'm a vice principal at a public middle school, with aspirations of one day being a school principal. So what is my hope and vision for my students and my children?
Well, quite simply, I don't ever want them to stop learning and dancing. You see, Ellie feels that learning is fun. She has never been told what she was going to learn or even that she was going to learn. She has just gone about her business for the last 5+ years living life and learning to be a person. Ellie embraces learning the same way she embraces dancing - as something to be experienced and enjoyed.
We adults lose sight of that. We think we are so smart as to determine for someone else what they should learn and when they should learn it and at what pace they should learn it. (The word curriculum, ironically, is a Latin word which means "a race.") We are, as evidenced by Ellie, inherently born with a desire to learn. Our job as educators first and foremost should be, must be, to cultivate that desire, not to quench it. Once we have made that shift, we will view the debate about homework and honors classes and SAT scores from a very, very different perspective.