I have been continuously learning for the last 39 and 3/4 years, a teacher of my own children for the last 12 years, and I have been a professional teacher for the last 6 years. Sounds pretty impressive when you think about it that way and yet I would consider myself far from being an expert. In fact, I am still scratching the surface of teaching & learning, so recently I joined a book club at work that was focusing on the book Make it Stick, which was looking at strategies to help learners learn.
The book was a fairly easy read, and in my opinion, lacked any real empirical research and spent a lot of time looking at a few specific incidents rather than large case studies. What I did get out of the book was a sense of testing skills and knowledge in a non-stressful but informative way, and that learners "make it stick" when they have an emotive connection to what they are learning. These two things I guess underpin my thoughts about developing my own practice, and I have tried this year to create a calm classroom where we students can come in and feel relaxed but know that they are going to learn topics to a high level.
I don't believe for 1 second that this has been 100% successful but I do know that for some classes and in particular some students feel that my classroom is a sanctuary away from all the exam pressure that is around them.
I do really worry about what pressures our children are under at school. I am not really talking about from their peers, although this would be a post in itself, but from the system of having to be successful and that success is measured from the grades or "progress" that students back from year 6 to year 11. I have been really worried about a number of my students this year that have struggled with mental illness and anxiety and the root causes of this are far from obvious and I am not pointing the proverbial finger at any individual part of education and growing up, but really there is a need to look at what happens to our children during the first 16-18 years of their lives.
It isn't just the students that are suffering in our education system either. Teachers are struggling with the amount of work that they are doing and the hours a week that they put into their roles. Last year in our school we were surveyed about the number of hours a week we work and it was something of an eye-opener. I spent the best part of 70 hours a week on work and sadly the least of that was on planning lessons!
I have been really lucky this year and have visited a couple of schools in other countries and looked at what the education system looks like for them and also talk to students about their interactions with education and how different things are especially as they are really engaged because they have a vision of what they will become in the future. I'm not sure our students have that vision and desire which comes back to my idea of the need for an emotional connection with whatever it is that they are learning.
This for me rings true from the book with the desires of the case studies to become doctors or pilots etc and with my own learning too. The desire to succeed overcomes the barriers put up when we fail and the instead of seeing a failure we see a chance to rebuild and be successful. My wife and I took dance lessons together for a number of years after our first son was born as a way of getting some me time together once a week and it was amazing. I was emotionally connected to the dancing because I was doing something fun but also doing it with my wife too and we would practice in the kitchen and anywhere we could find a space big enough to do it. This was highly successful learning as we had to stop a couple of years ago due to our every growing family but we still have some of our dance moves in our heads despite not practising them for years.