With shops full of all things red, and bears holding love hearts, it’s hard to forget that today is Valentine’s Day. I’ve even noticed that some schools have started their own cupid courier service, with students able to send each other notes of secret admiration. It’s sweet, and I like that we’re embracing acts of kindness, but as a self-confessed nerd I’d like to offer my own ode to love this Valentine’s Day – a love for learning.
It deeply saddened me to learn that students in England are amongst the unhappiest in the world, with 11 per cent of those surveyed by the Children’s Society saying they were dissatisfied with school life. This, coupled with more recent headlines outlining the continuing issue the UK education system faces with excluding pupils, makes it easy to understand why some students fall through the cracks and never find their love for learning. Often, they are labelled as ‘naughty’ or even simply ‘bad’ kids, with some schools even trying to convince parents to homeschool their child if they are at risk of exclusion, just to protect the school’s results data.
I don’t think this is the case, and I think everyone has the potential to fall in love with learning, they just need to be understood, have access to their studies in a way that suits their needs, and be able to see how their learning applies to the real world.
A lot of the students that are labelled ‘naughty’ are actually unmotivated and disengaged with their lessons. It might be as simple as them not seeing the relevance of what they’re learning, so explaining how the skills learned could help them later in life is a quick and effective way of boosting engagement. However, for others the issue is more complex, and could be related to poor mental health, bullying or they aren’t receiving the right support for special educational needs.
Feeling this frustration can then manifest in challenging behaviour, poor attendance and low attainment. But it isn’t fair to exclude children for circumstances out of their control – I think we can all agree on that. Equally, those who drift somewhere in the middle shouldn’t be ignored either, and we need to create a balance so that all students are given the tools to enjoy school. There are already plenty of educators that recognise this and are shining examples of how this can be done well.
Teachers have found that students engage more with their learning if it speaks to existing interests, and with today’s children growing up in the digital era, it makes sense to take full advantage of the endless options that technology provides us with. This supports learning through play, helping the subject to come alive in a way that resonates with students. For example, to engage students with STEM subjects, initiatives like Digital Schoolhouse teach computing through creative workshops, using games to develop computational thinking and problem-solving skills. Equally, LEGO Education has a number of products that engage students with coding by working with both the computer and a physical object in front of them, allowing them to collaborate with their peers and come up with solutions to problems together.
Ultimately though, all learning should be delivered in a way that suits individual needs, although there are different pedagogical theories of how this works best. As technology has advanced, we’re now able to do this in a way that simply wasn’t an option when I was at school. Virtual classrooms and online learning platforms, such as EDLounge, offer a safe space outside of the mainstream environment to access the curriculum at the student’s own time and pace, for example lesson times can be adjusted so the child can attend when they feel the most energised and able to learn.
Having a love for learning isn’t about ability, it’s about opportunity. And we must ensure that is equal to every student.