The new year begins, and many of us are thinking about new beginnings - things we may want to change about ourselves or our lives, or new things we want or hope to do or learn. One thing I would like to improve on is to reconnect with the joy of learning something new just for the sake of learning it. No other reason, no objectives, no goals, just the pure pleasure of learning and doing it because I really want to.
When I connect this thinking to education, I am reminded of how much we teach our children that the things they are learning are geared toward them getting a good job someday. Sometimes we begin to lose touch with the fact that we can also choose to spend precious time and energy learning things just for the fun of it. I think that when that connection is lost, a certain passion for learning can be lost too.
I often like to ask students why they are learning a foreign language. One of the most common responses is that it will help them get a better job someday, give them an edge. This is not a bad thing, but I like to encourage students to think beyond that. When they do, they come up with other reasons for learning a foreign language, reasons like: so we can communicate with other people and learn about their cultures, or be able to help people who live in the U.S. but do not speak English, and so on.
Encouraging students to think beyond is a great thing because they begin to see a bigger picture of why we learn things. And then, as I ask students to think more, some students, who actually really love learning languages, come to realize that they are learning another language because they just really want to! They love how it feels to speak in another tongue. They love that connection they feel when communicating with someone else in that other language. They love the new places and people that learning that language bring them to. And so on.
Taking students' thinking to these distances is what helps US help THEM to connect to the passion of learning things. It breathes life back into learning and reminds us what a joyous experience learning can be!
Now you might be asking - What about those students who just don't love learning a foreign language? Well, that's ok. The point is to help them see how there is always SOMETHING, or many things, that each of us has that we love to learn just for the sake of learning it. AND that we do not always have to have objectives for everything we learn. Some things we do just because we want to, and that is what keeps us enthusiastic and happy. And, when we fill ourselves up with joy and enthusiasm learning things we really love, we actually have a spill over of energy that helps us get through learning some of the things we need to learn, but do not necessarily want to learn.
So, as educators (parents and teachers), let's remember to help the youngsters out there connect with learning things they just love - no goals, no objectives, no future job - just do it and learn it because you love it!