I began my 7th grade history class today with this question, “Why are you here?” The response most often reported was, “To learn.” Now, I was actually pretty pleased to hear that. After all, I could have gotten: “because I have to come here, my parents made me”, etc. So, I was happy to hear that learning seemed important.
As we continued to talk, we realized a few other pieces to the puzzle. Here are a few of them in no particular order.
- We cannot possible learn everything
- Of what we do learn, we sometimes forget pieces
- Even when we learn, we sometimes revert back to old habits that are less effective
I challenged the class to answer, “If we cannot learn everything and we forget some of what we learn; then how do we decide what needs to be learned and how can we measure that you actually learned anything?”
I was impressed with the level of sophistication and thought that these students engaged in this conversation. It provided a great insight into how they think about school and learning. What I walked away with are these points that the students helped guide me towards:
- Smart people are thinkers and they practice thinking often
- Thinkers like to be engaged with other people who think
- In order to get the most out of and contribute to any conversation, you need to draw upon a body of knowledge that is engaging
- We need to accept that sometimes learning is about knowing facts – we cannot rely solely on the internet to provide our content knowledge – we should be our own best computer
- Access to information is better today than ever before, but so is the necessity to be more sophisticated and prudent in using that information
- We are here to learn because by learning we develop the breath and depth of our knowledge and, therefore, are able to think wider and deeper. The result of learning is the development of a “smarter” person who is capable of engaging others in a way that stimulates further engagement and a self-sustaining process of more learning.
If you are looking for a question to stimulate your class discussion, try, “Why are you here?”