I believe in learning. I believe that everybody and every living thing learns. When I share this with my students, they say, “Ahh Ms. Jackson, Well you’re a teacher. Of course you love to learn.”
While I have had a love for learning for as long as I can remember, it is only when I became a high school English Teacher two years, that I learned that a myriad of Adolescent Americans do not share this same zeal for learning.
When I’m looking out at the faces of my 33 10th grade English students, I believe that their desire for learning is surely there, but that it is hidden and lying dormant. The groans and sighs gurgle from their faces whenever I suggest that there is learning to be done. Open to page 861. I say cheerfully, (sigh) Lets look for the power of persuasion in Mark Antony’s famous funeral oration.” (groan) I try everything- reenactments, humor, personal connections, and even purposely will make a fool of myself in order to grab their attention and ignite a passion for learning that day. (moan)
When students fail to complete assignments, I don’t threaten them, but instead share my belief in learning. “Human beings are the only creatures on earth that can learn how to solve mathematical equations to build bridges and tunnels across and underneath parts of Oceans” I exclaim! “Only humans can learn to grow ears on the back of mice”, I announce excitedly! And one day, humans will learn to cure cancer and AIDS, grow hearts, and send people to other planets”, I prophesize. Use the brain you have that was meant to learn”, I lecture. (Grumble, grumble)
There are some days when I actually get a bit depressed because I know that that I cannot learn everything there is to know and am frustrated that I am not a genius, that I am only a high school English teacher and not contributing some noble scientific breakthrough to the world. My students might think that since I have this self proclaimed passion for learning that I have several degrees and am an expert in several fields. Mostly, I just want to learn enough about something to satisfy a craving.
A few years ago, I had a hankering to learn what it felt like to communicate with my hands-so I learned just enough American Sign Language. One day, I hope to learn to knit- just enough to make a scarf. Despite my appetite for learning, I realize that I can never possibly learn all there is to know.
Overall, I am satisfied if nearly everyday I can continue to fuel my brain with some knowledge. As for my students, at the end of the school year, the most I can hope for is that I have sparked an ember and flared-up my same passion for learning –even if it isn’t for Shakespeare’s Caesar-and if I can do that, I will have made my small, but significant contribution.
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