Last Monday, our entire faculty participated in a workshop on learning and the brain – how current research on brain functioning can influence how we teach and learn. It was a dynamic workshop, and our discussion during Wednesday’s faculty meeting about what we had taken away from it was equally inspiring. I am thrilled to work with so many wonderful educators who are themselves lifelong learners.
The workshop gave teachers many tools and activities that they could put to immediate use in their practice. For many, it reaffirmed and built upon much of what they already do. Brain research shows that students learn best when they are engaged and have an emotional connection to the material and the environment in which they are learning. It further supports Gardiner’s theory of multiple intelligences. It encourages critical thinking and problem-solving approaches. At first, some of the activities and approaches seemed “too fun” – not “rigorous” enough. Teachers wondered how effective they would be and how parents would respond. But the research shows that the strategies we were discussing are incredibly effective at increasing student learning, and teachers experienced how engaged they could be by doing many of the activities themselves. We even had a team of teachers sing the song they wrote at the in-service at assembly this past week!
Overall, I was reminded that we can have rigorous academics and find joy in learning at the same time. Rigor does not mean rote memorization and slogging through material. It means excellence and high expectations of achievement. There are so many paths to that excellence, and our teachers work to tap into those pathways, to scaffold and guide students to their highest potential. But they can still feel nurtured, have fun, and learn through projects and experiences. I hope to see even more of this joy throughout the year.