Griffin, my 9 year old third-grader, came home with an “Animal Research Project” today. I felt this was a perfect assignment for Griffin. He loves animals, has taken countless trips to multiple zoos, seen Jack Hannah twice, and wants to be a zoologist. If Griffin thought like my middle school students, he would have chosen the easy route for this assignment. He has already written two similar reports as science fair projects. Last year he wrote about his Elephants, since his grandparents adopted in his name at an elephant rescue. This year he created a report about the owls because he had watched born on a webcam. He could have easily chosen to recycle one of these reports.
Instead, Griffin listened to his teacher when she informed the class to choose an animal they did not know much about. Griffin spent time searching through his animal encyclopedia. As classmates choose common zoo animals: Lions, Tigers, Bears and Zebras. Griffin kept searching until he found the Aye-Aye! When he shared this with me, my reply was “The What?” Griffin quickly explained to me that the Aye-Aye is a small nocturnal primate that only lives in Madagascar.
He proceeded to run off to the library with his mother to search for reference books and get to work on this research report that is due May 20th, ignoring his friends playing in the street. My sons actions made me wonder, Why aren’t my students as excited about learning like my son?
I am sure if I asked my students, the answer would be “Because you are a teacher!” I know that it is more than just me being a teacher. Griffin, loves learning. While at the library, he also picked out books about Rome, since it was mentioned in a book he was reading. Griffin has a natural love of learning. Paying attention and getting his work done are priorities in his life. Why? Probably because he is still young and nobody has killed his curiosity. As a middle school teacher I find few students like Griffin. When I talk to parents of middle school aged students, they always say “just wait” and “It will change”. I hope not. Griffin is full of questions, passion for knowledge and a desire to figure things out. I don’t want his love of learning to die.
Students need their passions supported. Adults need to do everything possible to not kill the passion. Schools need to create meaningful assignments that give students choice and help student pursue their LOVE of LEARNING!