Lunarbaboon is an ongoing webcomic that explores parenthood, particularly fatherhood.
I was catching up on it the other day and came upon one titled “Learning.”
Firstly I want to comment on how the dad in the comic teaches. When the child asks a question, the dad doesn’t state the answer. In fact, he never indicates that he knows the answer. He responds with “Let’s find out!” or “Count!” indicating that the child should seize the opportunity to learn for his or herself instead of rely on someone to tell them. The dad is also willing to model finding out. As a new teacher, this was one of my struggles initially. I wanted to demonstrate my expertise and display my own knowledge at every turn; I mistakenly believed that would establish my authority in the classroom. Besides that, I equated knowledge with learning. Silly me, knowledge is only evidence of learning — and only one possible piece of evidence, at that! The father’s method is far superior. It encourages learning as a skill in addition to learning in the pursuit of knowledge. It also builds the relationship between father and child.
Secondly, that punchline! “But I want to keep learning…” I get you, kid. I get you. As a teacher, one of the most frustrating things is that teachers don’t have a lot of choice about what we teach, and students don’t have a lot of choice about what they learn. I understand that there is information and skills that we all need to know in general; I don’t disagree with that. But in school, we don’t learn for its own sake, the way the child wants to. We learn to earn a grade, to earn a score, to pass a test. To see how we measure up against others and with our past selves.
As much as I enjoy my career, I also feel very frustrated by it. I feel much of what I do as a teacher is not teaching. I train, instruct, manage, serve, assess, discipline, counsel, proctor, advise, plan, and also learn myself, among so many other things. I don’t believe all of those things to be equally important. But the very structure of school, where learning is the supposedly the highest priority, sometimes quashes it instead — or at the very least postpones it while I have to step into a different role. Yet current educational reforms don’t propose actually transforming schools. They move traditional educational models to the web and dust their hands off. Or they move students from one school to another and say, “This will be enough, probably!” Or they make more and longer checklists of things that students and teachers should accomplish, along with making us responsible for keeping records.
I might not have complete control over the setting where I work, but I can work towards bettering my community; building relationships, and making decisions such as voting to hopefully enact positive changes that will ultimately make my job (and my students’ jobs) easier. And I can control my attitude.
But that may not be enough. Parents, educators, and members of the community — support your schools. Learn about the issues that affect them and the challenges they face. And act on what you learn. As Lunarbaboon shows us, knowledge without action can be unhelpful!