(Note to reader- stay with me- it's a long post, but there is something really cool about to begin and below is why OR head over here and skip the why.)
One of the take aways I've found most valuable from my teaching years, readings, observations, and time learning with my own children is learning by immersion is vital when helping a child (anyone) learn and most importantly, enjoy the learning.
I don't believe learning happens without interest and enjoyment. Memorization for the moment, perhaps, but not learning.
If we want to learn how to speak another language, the best way to do so is be around and talk to people who speak the language, live in the country, be a part of the culture that gives that language its meaning.
Learning ANYTHING can and should be, as much as possible, a total immersion experience. To engage in reading we must begin by choosing what we read, talk about the book, maybe meet the author, dive into the whys and hows, the setting, the characters, the conflict- become a part of the book. To engage in writing, we must...write, and not in some prescribed way that only makes sense if we're taking a standardized test. We must engage in real writing- journaling, making lists, emailing, writing letters, making comic books, a flyer, starting a blog.
For any subject, any topic, if we want to know it, we need to be given the tools and time to become a part of the story.
What this looks like is time, resources, patience, more patience, and trust that if we hold the space, give our children/students the chance to explore, play, become a part of the story, they will...
when they are ready.
That is a BIG piece of the learning puzzle- children learn something when THEY are ready. Not when a test or adult deems them ready.
Can we help them become ready? Maybe. It depends on the child and circumstances. Should we try in a kind, offering sort of way? Yes, as long as they are willing. Force, even when backed by good intention, does not equal an enjoyment of learning or a true learning. It might equal minimal engagement, but eventually, the other piece, the child being ready and being offered an interest based, kind learning environment, will be necessary before a any sort of mastery can begin to occur.
So we offer- we facilitate- we observe.
What this looks like is the teacher/parent/facilitator constantly looking for things that might engage or inspire, and being okay to step away from what they think is a great fit (maybe just for a while) when the child doesn't find it to be a good fit.
I can't count how many times I thought I found the perfect book for a struggling reader that was in fact not the perfect book. So they'd abandon it, and we'd try again, and sometimes again and again, but we'd eventually find a book they loved, and they'd, sometimes for the first time, begin to truly read. I, as their teacher, had to be okay with them not truly reading until December or February. Truthfully, I didn't have a choice. I could "make them" read a book I thought they needed to, but they would A- have no clue what they were reading B- find the movie and pretend they'd read C-not do their assignment (because they couldn't and I was making them) D-cheat. The abc list goes on and on.
How many high school students do you know that pride themselves on never reading a single book in high school. Maybe you're one of them. If you're a high school teacher you know a bunch. These non-readers are not just kids who struggle to read, they are kids who hate reading, who haven't been given books they enjoy. It's not just reading. Replace it with any subject. For me it was math. Had I been taught math through art or cooking, I'd be much more in love with numbers than I am now, and I would have been more confident and successful in say, engaging in science. An area I was interested in, but told I'd never be successful in because I couldn't do math.
There isn't one way to learn. Books won't teach us everything we need to know. Our learners need immersion.
We must look for things that might interest our children and keep looking when what we find doesn't. We must be okay when their interests aren't ours. We must find interest in their interests.
We must say yes to messy, to lots of time, to doing the same thing over and over, to being okay when they just aren't ready to learn that just yet.
One of the best ways my children and I learn is in community. With a possible move on our horizon and so many of you, friends and readers, already a part of our online community, a collective of voices and ideas is needed.
I've created a new blog called Immersion Learning. It's for those who hold space for children to learn: parents, teachers, caregivers, and I see it as a community where we can share what we're doing, ask questions, are able to say what is and isn't working without fear of judgement.
We'd love for you to join us there and help spread the word!
Also, if your willing, we're looking for stories and ideas. Immersion Learning is a collaborative community. Come share and immerse your story with all of ours.
Hope to see you there!