Ah, the last one (of my list of Essential Things to Teach).
This is my favourite, and it seems to bookend nicely with the first one: Make Things Better. It would make for a nice t-shirt. "Make Things Better" on one side and "Find Truth, Beauty, Humour, or Joy in Everything You Do" on the other.
The main message here and with all of these Essentials, is to Learn. We learn from everything, we learn all the time, and we learn from everyone. It does not end. Everything is a learning situation, but it is up to us, the learners, what we walk away with.
How do we teach kids to think this way? We model. We think out loud. We wonder. We ask questions. We probe. We get stuck. We think (out loud) a bit more. [We do have to temper the "think alouds." Someone wise told me, thinking aloud is okay in small doses, but not too much. It's like telling someone about a dream you had. My dreams are fascinating to me. Yours? Not so much].
By constantly modelling wonder, we are also showing students that active, engaged minds are never bored. And we are using our brains at all times because we view every experience as a lesson, not just the times when the teacher is talking.
If you do end up making your own list of essential things in education, please keep a few things in mind:
-Keep the list to under 10 items.
-The list should not change (because these are essential items), but it more than likely will. (My list changes constantly. In fact, it changed quite a few times in the writing of these blog posts.) As you teach things about the list and reflect, you'll start to change and modify things. Go ahead. It is YOUR list. You are the one who has to teach it and live (with) it.
-Keep your list as simple as possible. This is especially true if you are going to refer to the list with young children. You probably wouldn't say, "Locate, Store, and Retrieve Information," but you might say, "Find out new things and be able to share them."
If I was to get my list down to the kernel of the ideas, (the essentials of the essentials), and one word for each item, it would be this list (one for each finger):
1. Better (thumb)
It seems appropriate that Make Things Better is in the thumbs up position. Very positive. This part includes: solving problems, being creative, making the world better. Job one.
2. Me (index finger)
The me finger is the one that does a lot of the work. This part includes anything to do with me: take care of myself, know myself, be myself, etc.
3. You (big middle finger)
I'll avoid the obvious crass joke here about finger placement. But I like the symbolism of holding up those three fingers. It's like a little crowd: Betterment, Me, and You. We'll work together to make things better. The big guy represents all other people: I get along with others, I work with others, I share, I learn from others, etc.
4. Communicate (ring finger)
This part includes sharing ideas with others, but also expressing myself and managing information. How do we make things better and get along with others? Communication. Ah, lovely overlap.
5. Learn (pinky)
I know it sounds redundant: An essential thing in education is to learn. Well, duh. But I think that "Learn" is the best single word to encapsulate "Find Truth, Beauty, Humour, or Joy in Everything You Do." (I mean the pinky is a small finger).
It makes for a nice mnemonic mantra:
"We can make things Better if Me and You Communicate and Learn."
Sure it's kitschy and grammatically awkward, but it nicely sums up a lot of what education is to me. It would be easy for kids to remember too.