Sep 29, 2012

Dr. Thomas Armstrong on the heart of learning

 Dr. Thomas Armstrong visits Keys Grade School. Here he is talking to some Kindergartners.

Freshly-posted on Rappler, my interview with educator, author and psychologist Dr. Thomas Armstrong. If more teachers, schools and parents take his advice I think this world will be a much better place.

As word limits are strict in the social news network I work for (stories must be readable on an iPhone screen!) and I have this tendency to be verbose, here's my chance to post parts of our chat that didn't come out on Rappler. 

He even blogged about Keys and Explorations and cited them as Exemplar Schools.

What he says about "creating an oasis of calm within ourselves" is so wise and so true and I have lived it (and the opposite!), I just had to share:

Rappler: In The Best Schools, you say more than teaching-to-the-test children need to learn to love learning, to imagine, create, to think critically. You’d rather have them involved in projects. Less pop-quizzes, more experiences. But then there are those who say, “We want to see test results!” And by the way… “Isn’t academic achievement a good thing?”

Dr. Thomas Armstrong: Yes, it is. In fact, academic achievement is part of the development of the whole person. It’s only when it becomes the main focus of learning that it becomes a problem. A doctor or a pilot should have passed his tests of course, but he should have spent a lot more time practicing his skills, hands-on-training.

Academic achievement is important, but it must stem from a love of learning. We should not destroy this intrinsic love of learning that children are born with. If we create this atmosphere where the test is the most important thing, then we starve their curiosity because they’re so busy studying for those very limited questions to a test. We then we miss the main point of education.

Rappler: The point being, socio-emotional growth along with intellectual growth.  Cater to their curiosity. Tend to their individual needs as learners. I’ve also heard people say, “Schools must be stressful because life is stressful, kids should toughen up, take those stressful tests, even… live with bullying!”

Dr. Thomas Armstrong: In that case, why don’t we all just beat ourselves up every morning? If life is that hard then why don’t we give ourselves a break? Nurturing socio-emotional development means we create an oasis of calm within ourselves that let’s us face stress or difficulty much better. We become kinder… to ourselves, to others. There’s this saying, “life is hard and then you die.” I don’t agree. What kind of life is that?

I always tell parents, discover your child’s strengths, because those strengths will fortify your child through the difficulties of life. If they don’t know who they are, what their capabilities are, then at the first sign of difficulty out in the world they’re going to fall apart.

The rest of the interview can be read on Rappler

Like how he thinks so far? I can vouch for one of his books: The Best Schools: How Human Development Research Should Inform Educational Practice. Not just for teachers, but for parents as well Written with a lot of sense, reflection and Heart.

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