I have to admit that I spend a huge amount of time browsing the web searching for resources and trying to be as up-to-date as possible. And while diving into educational sites, you can read a lot of grandiose statements about children – about what they like and how they learn, sometimes written by non-teachers far away from the reality of the classroom, or, as the Pope says ” Lots of shepherds not living with the smell of sheep”
And…you know what? I feel a kind of sadness when I read statements such as:
“All children are bored in schools”.
“Children don’t like books anymore”.
“Poor children! They have to listen to their teachers”.
“Children learn like this, children like that….”
Most of the time, those statements are not based on serious research or real experiences but on general prejudices, not respecting the wide range of children’s personalities and interests.
The fact is that after more than 15 years of teaching I have to say that:
– Children usually love going to school since it’s their universe.
– They like to have books because they love to have something of their own and books can also facilitate those intrapersonal moments that every human being needs. I believe in complementation not in substitution. Books and technology can live together.
– They also love to listen and talk to people who care and who listen to them. As Rita Pierson makes clear in her passionate TED Talk: “Children don’t learn from people they don’t like” since learning flourishes from interactions and relationships. Innovation should always start from there.
We talk a lot about innovation and about thinking outside the box, but sometimes innovation could be easily found by looking carefully inside the box and listening more to our children. Once, a great principal from a great school told me: Nowadays, great teachers speak a little, listen a lot and reflect on that all the time.
I’ve also learned that encouraging students to reflect on their own behaviour, feelings or knowledge, and making these thoughts visible by expressing them in a logical and coherent way helps to structure their minds and to interiorise their own learning.
So, that’s the reason why a while ago, we decided to interview young students asking things such as: How do you learn English? What do you think about the material you use in class? How do technology and videogames help you? How do you solve problems?
I asked Pedro Fernandez (colleague and friend) for some help, and he presented his 5th grade pupils the following task:
He told them that we needed their help so as to improve our materials. We wanted them to think and reflect on their own learning and explain it in their own words. We made clear that there wasn’t a right or a wrong answer, we just wanted to know their point of view. They had 2 days to reflect on it before the day of the recording.
The day of the recording we just made sure that they felt comfortable enough so they could speak freely and then we pushed the record button and just listened to them.
Children have a lot to say. They should be listened to more often