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Last Saturday, I wrote a post about the death of traditional teaching. To any teacher reading who thinks I don’t respect what you do, I was a teacher by profession, too. I worked hard at my job and wanted the kids to learn, too.

It was only as I began to truly focus on the kids’ needs, to put aside my ideas of what was important for kids to learn and the best ways to fill their heads with that knowledge, that I began to see the way kids REALLY learn. 

For those who live in 1st world countries, the landscape of our economy is changing. Seventy percent of the US population has a college degree. The training you receive in traditional schools that help you learn how to do your job without asking questions and do as you’re told doesn’t mean much when the job market is overloaded with people who have these skills.  The people who will have true job security in the future are those who will take charge of their lives and possess skills that most people don’t have. Those skills include self-direction, perseverance, imagination, innovation, goal-setting, creativity and intuition.

Traditional teaching does NOTHING to help students prepare for that reality. I know. I’ve lived in that world before. Kids are very smart. They realize that there’s a whole world out there to explore and it’s not the world that teachers are talking about. They have projects and ideas they want to pursue, and instead they’re asked to write term papers and take multiple choice tests. When in the world will kids ever have to do this as adults to earn money?

We need to transition from teaching to facilitating learning. 

Traditional teaching focuses on imparting knowledge. Learning facilitators help the learner gain knowledge for himself. Teachers walk into their classrooms with a set curriculum in mind. Their goal is to have each student understand everything in that curriculum.  They want each student to have a certain skill set by the end of the year – the same set of skills as everyone else in the class. The problem comes when you realize that we are all born unique and have different purposes to fulfill in this world. Not everyone wants or even needs to know the same things or have the same skills as everyone else. In fact, too much time spent in repetitive work or in “learning” uninteresting things will slow down children from developing their own unique talents and skills to their highest potential.

As their learning facilitator, you can help your children gain the skills and knowledge that is a perfect match for THEM. Not for everyone else. You can show them how they can eventually find all the information they need to lead them along their own unique path in life

Traditional teaching already has the end in mind.  Learning facilitators ask the learner where he wants to go. Most teachers in traditional public and private schools will be heading to their classrooms in a few weeks. They’ll be writing lesson plans, often for the first two weeks of classes, before even meeting the kids. They don’t know what the kids would like to learn or what really excites them. They have a set idea of what they want to cover and will proceed along that track regardless of the needs or desires of the children. This teaching system is “outcome” based. There’s a set of expectations that the student WILL achieve. They’ve already decided what the learner will learn and by what time he will have learned it.

 Unschooling families don’t need to do that. We can look at the path each of our children is on and give them the best tools as possible to reach their goals. The path is not a straight one; it will have many bends and twists along the way. When we look at our children and see them for the unique people they are, we’ll realize that it’s foolish to plan out a strict course ahead of time. There are too many important variables to ignore.

Traditional teaching assumes everyone learns the same way at the same pace. Learning facilitators acknowledge that people are unique individuals. As a teacher I was told to help each individual child with his unique needs. Yet at the same time I needed to turn in lesson plans a week ahead of time and make sure that all students scored at a certain level at the end of the school year. Contradictory, huh?

Most children I know learn in giant leaps; they don’t progress neatly along at a steady pace. They have their own way to approach reading, working with numbers and writing. Even in a class of 10 children, you cannot even begin to construct a “perfect” curriculum. It’s just not possible.

For kids that don’t attend school, it’s just a part of living and breathing to learn the way they learn best. If their parents embrace their uniqueness and can shed off the school mind set of grades, standards, and keeping up with everyone else, these kids will grow up learning the skills they need to become responsible adults and share their gifts with the world in their own perfect timing.

Traditional teaching assumes there in one body of knowledge everyone should know. Learning facilitators understand that creativity, imagination and inventiveness are more important than memorizing facts you could look up on Google.

Skills and subjects are very different from each other. Yes, your child will need to know how to read and do some writing and arithmetic in order to be successful as adults. But for a willing and able child, the amount of time that will take is months not years. But what about learning history, science, music, the arts and physical education?  Aren’t they important, too?   They are subjects that can help a person transform their perspective, open them up to a world of beauty and allow them understand the living world in new ways. But if children don’t come to those subjects in their own time and in their own ways, they won’t care.  If they don’t care, it won’t have the power to transform their thinking and their lives

Instead of filling kids’ heads with facts they could easily look up on Google, learning facilitators present kids with choices. They present them with exciting learning adventures and help them accomplish their own personal goals. In the process of reaching their goals, they will learn reading, writing and have a competency with numbers. They help kids flex their creative, inventive, and imaginative muscles in ways that are personally meaningful and make a difference in their lives and others.

Traditional teaching assumes people need external rewards like grades as incentive to learn.  Learning facilitators assume that people naturally want to learn things they are interested in. Why is it so hard to imagine that kid actually like to learn, that they were born loving to learn?  I think it comes from the fact that outside of school hours, many children, especially kids over the age of 8, run as far away from traditional school subjects as they can. They’d rather hang with friends, watch TV, play on the computer or just be. Many kids even find unwinding in these ways increasingly tough with the pressure to go to extracurricular activities and hours of homework after school.

But watch closely the children who do not go to school.  Watch those children who are given many choices in their lives, who can explore the things they are interested as much as they’d like. Those kids don’t mind playing with numbers. They often love reading for hours. Those are the kids who take out a science experiment book for the fun of it.  But besides being interested in traditional subjects, these kids also have a wide range of other unique interests. Everything they learn has equal value. They were not brought up thinking that “writing in your journal” was a punishment for talking to their friends in class. They love reading instead of thinking it’s what they need to do for 30 minutes every evening whether they like it or not.

When kids are given free rein to explore the world as they wish, the whole world is interesting. As they grow older and their interests narrow and are refined, they discover their true passions and gifts. They are in a position to be true experts before they even reach 18. They enter adulthood already understanding real responsibility, already having lived in the real world and knowing how they can serve others with their gifts.

Traditional teaching needs to die out. We need for all kids to have the opportunity to love learning, love knowing they are needed, and love sharing their gifts with the world. We need to facilitate kids’ natural love of learning instead of killing that inborn desire with stifling, disrespectful teaching.


What do you think?


Photo Credit: A. Strakey


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The Death of Traditional Teaching Part 1

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I went back to get my Masters in Education about ten years ago. I had been through a string of jobs since graduating with a degree in film: day camp counselor, bookkeeper, dental assistant, assistant manager at a bookstore and sales associate at a clothing store. After unsuccessfully pitching a few screenplays during a trip […]

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