Sunday, December 24, 2006

A matter concerning "interest" that should be discussed with regard to teaching is something apart from the "Life Interests list" (see below) formulated by Harvard Psychologists Timothy Butler and James Waldroop. These are the subject interests that tend to be far more specific to the individual teacher.

It is often assumed that if you are trained as a teacher, and are provided the textbook, that you can teach anything, regardless of your level of interest or lack of interest in the subject. I can understand the practical reasons why many education departments and school administrations would insist this is true, but from a common sense view into human psychology, and with an eye toward the passion for learning that we would wish to awaken in our children, to treat teachers as interchangeable in their application to subject matter kills passion in learning. You may in your education have come across teachers so enamored with their area of study that you were swept up into a zone in which your own enthusiasm for learning was awakened. If so, you were very lucky. For most students and teachers in the United States, school goes through the motions with students and teachers bored, hearts disengaged and eyes of all trained on the clock watching for the moment for dismissal. When the heart is engaged, time passes unnoticed and students emerge, not from sleep at the bell but from the depth of their engagement.

Ron Miller, author of several books about "holistic education" says in an article in this month's Encounter: Education for Meaning and Social Justice, "...young people learn about Shakespeare from teachers who are passionate about Shakespeare, and they learn chemistry from teachers who love science. It is not the curriculm that teaches them, it is the living reality of their teachers." As stated by Nel Noddings in The Challenge to Care in American Schools:An Alternative Approach to Education, "caring relations" prepare students for academic receptivity.

In order for teachers to awaken our children to their great potential as learners, we must provide for the awakening of passions in our teachers as well. That requires a change in the structure of schools, allowing flexibility, allowing creativity and experimentation. It requires allowing teachers to move beyond the set curriculum to explore areas of awakened interest and passion. It requires hiring teachers with the expectation that they will give their best, and then establishing a framework of trust that allows them to deliver.

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