When I was training to become a teacher back in East London, our study group was invited to observe an English lesson at a local primary school. The teacher was introducing the new genre of persuasive writing to his class, and about 10 minutes or so into the lesson, one of the boys raised his hand and said, “I’m not being rude or anything Sir, but why are we learning this?”
That question still resonates with me decade later. Why are we learning this? The child in that classroom back in the London wasn’t challenging his teacher’s authority, he just wanted to understand why he was going to spend an hour of his school day learning about a specific style of writing. Every teacher worth their salt will tell you that time is a very precious thing at school and it is vital that teachers turn this question around on themselves.
One of the strengths of the teaching staff at the British International School of Chicago, Lincoln Park is that we make the learning real; we show the children the real world applications of the knowledge and skills that they are building in the classroom and how they can apply it the rest of their lives. Helping children understand the purpose of what they are doing and why they are doing it is an extremely powerful motivator, and staff at our Lincoln Park campus revel in the role of facilitating learning that lives and breathes.
So what does ‘real –life’ learning look like? It’s the letters that Year 1 mailed to the Cubs after they broke the curse and won the World Series; it’s the way in which Year 5 are developing their graphic design skills in computing to create 3D models of sustainable housing; it’s the discussions that happen in French class about the value of communicating with others; or the way the Science specialists unlock the mysteries of physics that the children see on the playground when they are playing soccer.
The question of ‘Why?’ is something that all educators ask themselves on a daily basis at BISC Lincoln Park, and finding the answer to that question with children in the classroom in something that every teacher at our campuses loves.
-Matt Gregory, Year 5 Teacher, Aspiring Leader, and KS2 English Coordinator