When Does Real Learning Occur?

Today I spent my lunch hour at a volunteer appreciation lunch at a school where I, along with 54 others, have been volunteering over the past year. This was mainly a student run luncheon. The students created a presentation, made speeches, said grace, made lunch, prepared gifts, wrote cards, served food & drinks, greeted  & seated guests, and decorated. These students are amazing, to say the least.

As I was sipping on my coffee and enjoying the presentation, I considered what an amazing cross curricular, experiential learning experience this is for the students to engage in. Essentially when speaking in terms of curriculum subjects and outcomes and indicators, the students would have covered areas of math(setting up chairs for appropriate amounts of people, preparing enough food for all guests, setting up the schedule for the lunch), ELA (writing and presenting speeches, writing in the cards, sending out emails), social studies (community involvement, understanding of well-being), science (the life cycle of plants, growing and taking care of plants which were then gifted to the guests) health(giving back to the community, and essentially every aspects of health) and I am sure much more that I am missing. Looking at this experience in those terms, this was a teachers dream come true all wrapped up into a conclusion of an hour and a half.

This then made me think about when the real learning will occur for my future students? What kind of experiences will I be able to create for them that they will truly benefit from in the long run? How can I make learning meaningful to their lives? What kind of learning will help my students become ‘life long learners?’ I am continuously finding more reasons as to why the classroom as we think of it, in its standard form, needs to change. What we consider to be a ‘normal’ classroom needs to change, we are well overdue. Many teachers may consider an experience like this and cringe at the amount of time and preparation it would take. However, these teachers embraced it and went ahead full force. I wonder how much these students will benefit from this experience over sitting in the classroom?

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7 thoughts on “When Does Real Learning Occur?

  1. Wow, those are some very engaged students. I have always head that people use rap, and song writing in the classroom, but this teacher and her students take it to a whole new level. Thanks for the share, Michelle!

  2. Wow, what a great thought, Jane. I know that I have often thought of ways that I can engage my students in inquiry based projects and experiences (much like this example of planning a luncheon) to help them learn the content of the curriculum. I’m very impressed with the curricular connections that you made!
    I think that this can relate back to the discussion we had in one of the live sessions around the fact that classrooms today are changing and do NEED to change. We can no longer expect children to learn sitting at a desk for 6 hours, 5 days a week. The time and preparation come with the job and, I feel, that when we get the students involved in the entire process, we can plan and prepare together. I really hope to be creative and have access to resources to attempt projects and experiences like this in my future classroom.

  3. Great point about the preparation time for teachers, and how it could change if you allow students to be active members of the process. I believe this to be true as well. If teachers can allow for the students to help plan and manage the learning experiences in the classroom, I believe that the success from both parties would be phenomenal!

  4. Jane,

    I think students learn When and Where they Need to solve a problem – such as organizing an appreciation lunch. And yes, they can do this on their own, regardless of their age.

    You might wonder, then, what our job or function is. I think this is the question your post, particularly your last paragraph, is really asking.

    I think our job is to introduce our students to different Ways of learning and solving problems; content is a far second, or perhaps even third, priority. This is why we teach subjects as subjects; each subject provides different paths of thinking and learning. We essentially introduce students to learning, and to new aspects of the World around them. It is up to them to learn.

    Another aspect of our jobs is to assess their learning. The goal here is to determine how to fascillate their continued learning. However, because we set a end-point to their learning (age 17 or grade 12), our assessment has morphed into a gate for advancement, and our teaching has been been stuffed into curriculum. Everyone learns the same material in the same time period. And this is the school I think you are questioning. I think we are still working on this one, but, with teachers like you asking questions about how we teach, we eventually will change the way we all learn.

  5. Thanks for you thoughts, Shawn! As a pre-service teacher trying to figure out what I believe in, and essentially what my philosophy is, assessment is definitely one of those troubling topics. I love how you have defined the goal of assessment as to, “determine how to facilitate their continued learning.” By thinking of assessment in that manner, a teacher will likely have a differing view of what and how they will teach there students; a way that may not always reflect the learning of the curriculum.

    • LOL! You will be trying to figure out what you believe in, and what your philosophy is, your entire career. And that will make you a great teacher; it is a journey. Balancing your believes, your students’ needs and best interests, and the curriculum will always be a hurdle, but remember your students are the reason you are becoming a teacher.

      I am sorry, by the way, for spelling facilitates incorrectly in my first comment. It looked strange when I proofread my comment, but I forgot to follow-up on that feeling. Mistakes, it turns out, are par for the course.

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