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Education Blogger: I don't know is NOT okay

Today, I was teaching my high school reading class, and I was disappointed.

My students were lethargic at best, and I was trying to drag information from them.

I was asking for anything they might know about India. ANYTHING… elephants, colorful silks, Taj Mahal, celebrations, Bollywood, curry. I was getting nowhere.

Finally, a student said, “Ms. Dove, I’m an American. Why would I know anything about India? I don’t need to know anything about India.”

His comment roused many emotions. I was enraged and deeply saddened at the same time.

I considered going on a rant, but I didn’t. I gave the students some basic facts about India and had them read the article to practice their reading skills.

My student’s comment hit hard and made me feel bad to be an American – something I have been grateful for on so many occasions.

I could blame computers. I don’t like computers for elementary students because I think it limits their creativity. I like watching kids build with blocks and then destroying their structures. Sometimes things get broken that can’t be fixed. Kids need to learn that.

I like kids playing dress-up and creating the stories to go with the clothes. Little kids playing dress-up might ask me what Indians wear and pretend to be Indian. The kids might even ask me what Indians say, eat, or do.

What happens to that curiosity? Is it because students need to be reading in kindergarten so students today have less play and learn time? Have we destroyed the JOY of learning?

When I go to staff meetings, I’m told it’s my job to motivate the students. I need to do more to “make” students learn. I’m running out of ideas…

At my recent evaluation, I was credited for giving all sorts of interesting little facts while I taught. I do that to try catch the students’ attention. Maybe we can go down a rabbit hole that will keep their attention so that I can teach the lesson they need to learn.

Exploring unknowns has been one of the reasons for an education. Where does this come from? How does it work? What does it do?

Teaching children who ask those questions is a treat.

I don’t want to give your child a worksheet and expect a canned response. I want your child to learn and wonder. If we have to investigate, it’s even better.

Have you asked your kids what they learned today? Do you want them to look at you and say, “I’m an American. I don’t need to know that.”

If we choose to stop learning, where will we be in the next 20 years?

Many people believe education is what makes a better society. Do the societies that have fewer things work harder to learn? Maybe they do. It’s a way to make a stronger country.

Step back and think for a moment. What was the last thing you took the time to learn? Not the quick flash in the pan question you asked Google. When was the last time you read an article and then looked up a couple more things to understand it better?

If you don’t want to learn, most likely your children won’t either.

Why don’t you try this. Ask your child what they learned today. If you get an “I don’t know” or a “nothing.” Learn something with your child right now. Use your home for inspiration.

If there’s cinnamon on your counter. Find out about cinnamon. Where’s it from? Did you know that in Asia it’s used for savory foods and on meat? Is it a nut or bean?

Ask questions and investigate just for five minutes.

Look at the bottom of your coffee mug. Where was it made? What brand is it? If it’s not microwave safe, find out about microwaves.

Let your children know that learning is important (and not painful).

Knowledge is power. Don’t forget it.

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