When I was in high school, I read everything that Danielle Steel wrote. I loved the escape, the easy read, the happy endings, and I especially loved when she wrote historical fiction. One of my favorite books is called Zoya by Danielle Steel. I was shocked when I got to a college history class and found out that I knew everything I needed to know about the Russian Revolution because I read Zoya a couple years before.
I loved to read when I was a kid. Still do. Have to disclose something though–I have rarely enjoyed reading a book that was assigned to me. Maybe because of the rebel in me? Maybe because I don’t like being told what to do?
My aversion to learning without a component of choice has impacted me as an educator–I can understand the power of choice in learning. I can also understand the disengagement that happens in the absence of choice.
Back to Zoya–I still remember much of what I learned about the Russian Revolution when reading that book. How much would remember about the Russian Revolution if I learned about it through reading a textbook and lecture? My guess? Zilch.
When I am assigned a book and comprehension activities, I work reluctantly to get the job done and forget what I learned as soon as it is over. When I am reading a book of my own choice, I extend my learning by googling information I find in the book, by watching YouTube videos on the topic, by talking with friends and colleagues about it, by blogging about it…and what I learn sticks with me.
In The Innovator’s Mindset, a book that is as much about good leadership, empowerment, and relationships as it is about technology, George Couros says,
Our job as educators and leaders is not to control others but to bring out the best in them.
How can we teach the curriculum, which includes things that students have no interest in learning, in a way that brings out the best in them? How can we empower students to learn in a way that is meaningful and sticks, encouraging their curiosity rather than squelching it?