Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

A Burning Passion for Learning: Resources

Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

A Burning Passion for Learning: Resources

Article excerpt

A real love of education can make all the difference to your teaching, writes Paul Jackson.

As Valentine's Day draws closer, anyone in a relationship has a thought about what they should do. Send a card? Buy a gift? Book a table in a restaurant? Those not in a relationship, however, can face a similar dilemma. Should they send a card? Make an invitation? Reveal their interest in a special person?

But why do we have just one day to celebrate love? And should love have such narrow parameters? What if there was just one day each year to learn or just one day each year to have fun? Or, to turn it on its head, what if there were 195 days each year to love - as there are to attend school - and you could do the loving over only 1,265 hours within those days? How wonderful it would be if we could combine the two, ensuring that everyone develops a true and lifelong love of learning.

In Ancient Rome, 14 February was a holiday to honour Juno, queen of the gods and goddesses (the Romans also knew her as the goddess of women and marriage). The following day marked the beginning of the feast of Lupercalia. On the eve of this festival, the names of Roman girls were written on slips of paper and placed into jars. Each young man would draw a name from the jar and the young couple would then be partners for the duration of the festival. Sometimes the pairing of the children lasted an entire year and often, according to reports, they would fall in love and later marry.

This fascinates me. But history does not reveal which were the most successful pairings: those that were love at first sight or those where fondness developed over a longer time. The parallels between love and learning are compelling. And when it comes to learning, I would always argue for love at first sight.

If a child's first experience of learning is right, they will be hooked. Some experts claim that learning begins the moment the child leaves the womb, with Hungarian music educationalist and children's composer Zoltan Kodaly alleging that "music education begins nine months before the birth of the mother". By this, he means that a child's first experience is influenced by the learning of their grandmother.

If we take learning to mean "schooling", then think of the schools you have visited, whether as a child, parent, teacher or in any other capacity. How many of them got you hooked straight away? How many of them made you want to delve deeper, to explore? And how many of them made you furtively look at your watch, wondering how long it would be before you could leave?

Get the first impressions right, create the right atmosphere, encourage a child to find out more and they will enter the building in the right frame of mind every day. The best schools do it so well that the child is in the right frame of mind from the minute they wake up. After seven or eight years at a primary, that feeling is ingrained. If the atmosphere is positive, think of the lifelong effect. If it is negative, think of the lifelong devastation.

But after the first impressions fade, how do we keep the fires of passion burning? Where beliefs are shared, the relationship grows stronger.

This can also apply to teaching. Think of the times when you have learned most effectively. I bet there was a passionate teacher close by - passionate about their subject and learning, and about passing that energy to the children they taught. …

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