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Teaching vs Education

I no longer have a passion to teach. What I have is a passion for education.

While most people would equate the two, I have discovered a difference. Teaching is about me, my expertise, my skills in delivery, techniques to engage, simplification of complex ideas and so on, and as a former teacher, I worked hard to develop myself into a better speaker, better explainer and a more engaging presenter.

Education, however, is about the learner. What do they want? What are they interested in? And how can I support them? We often equate supporting learning with teaching (as if that is the only way to support it) but what I have realized in my years of study and research of self-directed education that supporting learning sometimes means not teaching and letting the learner find their own path, to pursue their own passions without forcing it to bend to anyone's agenda or curriculum but their own.

In a way though, you could still say I am passionate about teaching -- not kids -- but adults. I want to teach parents, teachers, school "experts" to stop being obsessed about whether or not kids are learning enough material, whether to add more hours, days, years of teaching, whether they ought to take more tests or do more homework or more projects.

I am not saying these are unimportant. But the first step is to respect the child’s choice whether that is a path they want to pursue -- to recognize that the children are people with as much right to their life choices as we adults have. Whatever gave us the idea that we have the right to command a child who wants to read a book or draw or play, to put those things aside and listen to teacher explain the difference between igneous, sedimentary and metamorphic rocks? What makes that so much more important?

Would you tell 8-year old Mozart to not spend so much time on his piano and music sheets? Ah, but not everyone is a Mozart, you might argue. And I would say, how many young Mozarts have we unwittingly suppressed because we did not allow them time to pursue their passions? As A.S. Neill, founder of Summerhill School, wrote, “heaven only knows how many geniuses have been destroyed by stupid coercion.”

Kids already have more than enough material -- in fact, so much more than they will ever have a practical use for in their lives. We only need to look back at all material we supposedly “learned” before but hardly ever use today.

Education is not about force-feeding the kids, having them regurgitate material back to me, to my satisfaction so I can give them a grade. It is not about us teachers. It was never about us.

Education is about them, their passions, their interests, their future. We till soil, enrich it, and make sure it is a suitable environment for growth. But it is they who do the growing for themselves. You cannot pull on seedlings to make them grow faster. You only end up damaging them. They grow at their own pace and direction, and in their own time. We have to recognize and respect that, and be grateful for the amazing privilege of witnessing their journey.

That is what I am passionate about.

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