Let Them Be Children!

I am finding a common theme across many of these talks. Our children and youth set an example for learning. They are unique, curious, and active learners if provided with the right conditions. Sir Ken Robinson’s talk, “How to Escape Education’s Death Valley” describes what learning could be like if we leveraged the diverse talents they possess vs. pushing conformity across a narrow field of study.

While we are not Finland, we can certainly learn from a system that has a vastly lower drop out rate. They must be doing something to foster a unique learning environment where children thrive and enjoy learning. And the result is they want to keep going and finish, not drop out. Finland sees teaching as an esteemed profession, doesn’t require standardized test, and offers individualized learning, but it’s the embracement of play that I see immense opportunity.

Play can be an outlet for fun and exercise, but can also be an avenue to discovery and sparking curiosity, which we need in American classrooms. Play lets children learn in a more natural way. If classroom environments where a place for play then maybe kids wouldn’t be so eager to go to recess. It would be learning through play that kept them engaged. I think this is where the value we place on teachers comes in. Ensuring that teachers have access to resources, continuing education, and are properly supported will help further alternative ways to learn through play in the classroom.

I also found many takeaways from Robinson’s talk including his proverb like messages about learning. The ones below I personally found to be powerful. What were your takeaways?

“Curiosity is the engine to achievement”

“No learning means no education”

“Human life is inherently creative”

“Education is not a mechanical system it’s a human one”

 

 

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13 thoughts on “Let Them Be Children!

  1. I’m in complete agreement about the role of play in education. One of the reasons why I came to Tech was because I met one of the professors at a conference that basically consists of a bunch of nerds and gear heads who get together and play–instruments, hand-built electronic gizmos, giant sound installations, what have you. When I met him for my first GA meeting, he kept using the word “play” in our conversation: “there’s this cool project I think you could join; we can get you into the lab with the team and you can play”, or “there’s a really cool speaker array downstairs that you can play with”, and “I play with the laptop orchestra”, and that stuck with me. It’s heartening to see that despite everything it must have taken for him to get to where he is, that sense of play, and the childlike wonder and curiosity that it inspires, is still there.
    I tend to gravitate towards the people and the subjects that allow me to maintain that playfulness in my own life, and when we were asked “Why are you here” in the last class, my answer was simple: I’m here to play.

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  2. I wholeheartedly agree with the sentiments of this post. And, to build onto your title, I’d add that we should let all learners—let everyone—”be children.”

    What I mean by this is that we need to create environments that encourage curiosity—in elementary schools, in colleges, at workplaces. If we don’t, learning will remain monotonous, will remain counterproductive to its own self, as hands-off, mindless learning inhibits creativity and, consequently, learning.

    I’m in accordance with your thought that we must leverage talent rather than push conformity, and that we should be looking at other countries’ examples, even if, as you point out, we aren’t those countries. In contrast to what some of our most powerful leaders have said and are continuing to say, we are, in fact, not “the best” at everything; objectively, as this week’s readings and video are pointing out, we’re certainly not the best in terms of our education system. We need to improve as a conscious political body by listening to our global peers, by being open-minded to learning from those other countries (and educators within our own country) who have proven there’s a better way to learn.

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    1. You bring up a great point that environments which lack curiosity hinder not only the individual but overall productivity. This may be especially true in the workplace. I know I would rather work in a place that sparks curiosity, creative thinking, and play!

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  3. As the conversation keeps returning to the value we place on teachers in the US, it keeps occurring to me how many problems could be helped through greater gender equity. Teaching used to be very highly valued, when men did it, and it has followed the same trajectory as computer programming in the opposite direction as it became a field dominated by women. It just kills me that sexism contributes to so many issues that affect everyone but isn’t counted as a big problem by so many people. Thanks for the post.

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    1. This is a great point. Being an international student not quite versed in the US education system I had to go and search for myself. And yes ! There is a teacher gender gap. (I looked at https://www.aaeteachers.org/index.php/blog/757-the-teacher-gender-gap)
      Just like there is a gender gap in STEM fields. And remember the sexist manifesto by the ex-google employee that contended women are psychologically disadvantaged when it comes to coding! The parallels are eerily similar .

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  4. Similarly to previous responders, I am in complete accordance when it comes to your opinions on play- I think children AND young adults AND adults should be allowed to play. We as individuals are not hardwired to sit for hours on end learning the way that we do, but instead we are curious and creative individuals who should be given the space and time to explore that creativity. I will be completely honest in saying that I never truly appreciated or understood the work that it took to be a teacher, nonetheless an effective one,
    until I became one. My only wish is that people could experience life as a teacher for even one day just to get a taste of the work and thoughtfulness that is involved in the profession. In doing this, we might place more emphasis on their roles in the lives of our youth (and adults) and perhaps be more attentive to their importance in the overall success of our education system.

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  5. Hello,
    I enjoyed reading your blog-post and certainly agree with the sentiment about letting children play and learn. Personally, throughout my elementary school years my sole motivation of going to school was because I knew there was recess and lunch. Somehow, however teachers did manage to sneak in some lessons and I was able to learn. It wasn’t until I was much older that I began to be “mindful” of it and try harder to become more knowledgeable and sincerely interested in new subjects and methods.

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    1. Your are so right that elementary school years are about friends, lunch, and recess! Glad they were able to sneak in learning. Seems like the perfect opportunity to create learning opportunity during times that children are naturally curious and attentive.

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  6. I agree– enabling play is a great way to foster learning and a deep understanding of the material. I think the real underlying issue with the way that the standard American classroom is run is that there’s a time limit placed on everything. And if you don’t accomplish whatever tasks were set out in that time limit, you simply fail, which is not seen as an opportunity for growth. Play, on the other hand, is riddled with trial and error. It takes a lot of time for the students to undergo this process themselves, and even more time for teachers to figure out how to let students play with the material in an effective and informative manner. For example, imagine a classroom where students were learning the scientific process by doing little experiments. The “natural” way of doing such experimentation is to just do thing and try things, usually without writing anything down, and sometimes without much of a rhyme or reason to it. If students were asked to tell someone else how to replicate their experiment or what their conclusions were, they’d likely have trouble. Students might eventually learn the scientific process themselves if they were asked to do this over and over again, but this would take a lot of time just to run so many experiments, if nothing else. Teaching is a way of fast-tracking this process so that students can learn more in less time, making the real question becomes, “How fast should this material be taught?”

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  7. Wow such great points! I agree we don’t have enough time. Time to just think, explore, try things out, or fiddle around with a new concept. Good point about repetition too. If we just kept practicing it would become second nature vs. forcing the process.

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  8. You make some great points here. As someone else mentioned above, children often look forward to lunch and recess– and generally any other opportunity to play and interact with their peers. But with increased pressure to perform well on standardized tests, schools are allotting less and less time for play, which probably isn’t benefitting anyone in the long run.
    I don’t think this was mentioned in Sir Ken Robinson’s talk, but schools in Finland also provide free school meals, psychological counseling, and individualized guidance for all students. These services that create a safe, supportive environment for education shouldn’t be overlooked. US schools don’t do a great job of providing these services, and some schools even lack the infrastructure and resources they need to function; under these conditions, it is difficult for teachers to teach, and for students to learn.

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  9. I agree! I feel like, especially in terms of writing, college students often contain a lot of anxiety and angst about writing. Whether they feel like they aren’t strong writers, or maybe they just don’t like it, most students I’ve encountered here at VT are aware of how necessary writing is to future personal and professional success. All of those thoughts combined are not a happy environment for playful, creative production. As a way to “loosen things up” in the composition classroom, I have pulled out computer paper and crayons and encouraged students to create a visual representation (of any kind) of the main thesis / argument of what they are trying to convey. In an activity that feels a lot like coloring, many students seem to open up their minds and release some stress associated with writing.

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