Last night we had company for supper (this is a regular weekly event) and S and another friend began a discussion of the pricing schemes of buffet style restaurants. They spoke at some length about what things were the best deal for the customer and which were the best deal for the restaurant.? I supposed I must have looked amused because S asked me later what I found so funny.
“Oh,” I said, ” I never think about these things but you two seem to notice them all the time.”
“You don’t look at everything and wonder why it is priced and packaged the way it is?”
“No, I compare things like phonics programs, not pricing.”
“That’s it, “he said,” You look at things in terms of their impact on a learning environment.”
That got me thinking…How much of what I do to teach the children comes from my abiding interest in learning? I tend to think of many of the things we do as obvious ways of developing their individuality and ability to learn, but maybe those things aren’t as obvious as I think.
I think there are two basic kinds of learning environments, they have different functions and emphasizing one more than the other will? lead to different outcomes.
The first kind is the more obvious one: the formal classroom where specific instruction is given at specific times for specific purposes. Here there is order and discipline, students are taught to follow instructions exactly and to internalize and repeat factual information. Some classrooms will allow for exploration but even that will usually be done under constraints of time, and space as well as the needs of the other students.
This kind of classroom is very important. Students need to learn to listen, follow instructions and meet expectations. They need to learn not to just follow their whimsy but to “buckle down” to the things they find difficult or boring. They also need to learn to function in a group for the good of the group and a well run classroom can provide all of these things.
The second kind of learning environment is that which recognizes that there is something to learn in every interaction with the people and things around us. This environment encourages curiosity. Students are provided with the tools and time to stop and explore around the way. There can be specific goals or tasks set, but the experience is as important (or sometimes more important) than the completion.? This might be called a? holistic approach as the teacher or parents try to engage the whole student in the learning process.
The thing I find interesting to think of as a framework is this: if the point of parenting or education is to teach children to be aware of who they are and of what their responsibilities and privileges are in the world, then what things in which type of learning environments will bring them to the point of self-awareness and ability to participate as full members of the community?
The answer to that question is foundational to what things we choose to include in our children’s learning environments.