How many adults are bored, uninspired, unmotivated, or without direction? A fair few.
How many children are? Not many.
So what happens in between?
If your teenager is losing motivation, spirit, direction – stop!
Stop and look to see what is stifling them.
Children learn by playing. They experiment and observe and test.
Teenagers also learn this way – but often by this time the dictates of societal and school expectations have taught them something different – to sit still, and listen, and be tested… and that playing is for kids.
Teenagers are not being rebellious if they are finding it hard to motivate themselves to follow what is asked of them in school. Teenagers have an imperative to question, to explore, and find out for themselves and if not allowed to follow this they can lose motivation. It is not a good time to insist that they study and be tested. Happily, some teachers have found ingenious ways of working with their teenage pupils, creating the space for them to explore their own ideas and arrive at their own conclusions before introducing them to the ideas of others.
We all learn by making connections – by starting with an interest, by exploring, and expanding our understanding. Although the curriculum, delivered by teachers, to large groups of pupils, later to be tested, is hoping to do this – it cannot. Inevitably our children’s curiosity is stifled and directed. Their understanding of the world is parceled up into disconnected subjects that they often only learn because they know that they will be examined on them.
Children are told that they must do well in school so that they will get a good job. Sadly, however, adults often do not enjoy their ‘good jobs’? Children notice this. So much work and effort expended on a goal that ends up not being so desirable.
Somewhere along the line children stop following their hearts and learn to follow someone else’s plan. The plan may be well-intentioned, and could serve them well even, but not if it is at the cost of learning that there is no kudos in, or time to pursue, what they love as well.
What if we were to encourage our children to play more, and as teenagers to explore their own ideas more – to make mistakes, to really take a hobby seriously, to learn for themselves? When a child is grabbed by an interest, they become highly motivated to explore that topic deeply. Cast your mind back to a time when your youngster became so fascinated by something that they sought to find out all they could – and maybe came to know more about it than you did. Although they may benefit from adult support in their explorations, they do not require our cajoling or reminding to apply themselves. All learning could be like this.
Sadly, all too often, children’s fascinations are disregarded by the adults around them, in favour of more valued activites or areas of learning. Or their lives are so scheduled that there is no time for creative play. Yet, so many eminent adults cite their success as seeded by a childhood passion, started in their bedroom or shed.
To sit in a classroom and be told what to know and how to think can be soul-destroying for many. Facts are easily learned but a healthy attitude towards learning is much harder to acquire. In adult life, we come across situations where we need new knowledge to enable us to carry out a particular task. Learning this new information is easier because it is needed for something imminent and real.
If our children learn how to learn and acquire a love of learning, then they are well equipped.
Enabling this is true education.
The Born to Learn people think so too! Take five minutes to watch this inspiring animation:
I want my children’s heads to be full of their own ideas, plans and projects
- and their days full of the realisation of some of them.