When the days start to get cool, leaves start to fall, my bones tell me it is time to go back to school. Personally, I spent 26 years going to school every fall from the time I was 5 until I was 31. I took a break when my babies were little, but now we are up to another 15 years of returning to school once again, when September rolls around.
As I have gotten older, the way school happens has changed for me. I now read listserves, books, and research articles, attend webinars, trainings, conferences, but don’t go “back to school” the way I use to. I did just sign up for two cooking classes through our local rec and ed department, but I miss the idea of possibilities opening up with a brand, spanking, new school year.
Unlike me, my children have not been as good of schoolers in the traditional sense. The traditional schooling model, go to a class, sit and listen to an authoritative adult is not for everyone. Actually, research shows this is not the best way to help most people learn.
This leads me to ask, how does learning happen? What is learning? I think about this a lot. I have come to believe it is about changing our brains, introducing and incorporating new information or ideas into our own personal data base. This, hopefully, will then lead to changes in our behaviors or perhaps, even harder to do, our belief systems. The odds of brain changes happening from just listening to someone else tell you something are low. I believe that in order to make effective brain change, which may then lead to behavior changes, and maybe if we are very lucky, belief changes, you have to do more. You have to get the learner involved in the process of learning. You have to have them do something. Discuss an idea though writing or group discussion. Better yet, work with a mother/baby couple, and see the positive change you can help her achieve in her life.
I was listening to a show on NPR, I don’t remember what, but they were talking about young children and schooling. It just hit me so strongly that it is unlikely that someone will “learn” something if they don’t feel cared for, safe, and well rested. If you are hungry, it is hard to learn. If you don’t feel the teacher cares about you, you are unlikely to learn. No wonder low income children and frankly, adults, have a hard time with learning. They really have bigger fish to fry than learning math or how to read. Learning can be low on the list of priorities. Unless…, unless you help them see that by learning, they are ultimately going to take care of the safety and hunger problem that they have. This is tricky business and hard to do.
This gets back to the style of teaching and communication I use when working with clients and my students. Motivational Interviewing (MI) allows me to discover what approach to take when working with someone. It is student/client centered. It allows me to learn enough about each person to help them discover why could be important to them. That’s when something exciting can happen.
The classes I offer, and please check them out if you are interested in breastfeeding support, provide opportunities for discussion, exchanges or ideas and experiences, working with real mothers and babies, and time for reflection.
William Yeats said “Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.” Let’s all light some fires this fall! To help keep our bodies warm, and to keep our minds burning brightly.