One of the most common things I get asked is ‘How did you develop your approach to learning and education?’
Learning for the fun of it
Learning is continuous, it is not just something that happens in school or University. Through observing others and learning from experience, we grow and develop in more ways than one.
If learning is ongoing and eternal, then let’s make it fun, interesting and inspiring. When you learn with a sense of wonder and curiosity, you are instantly more motivated and engaged. When teaching someone new, I seek out things they are interested in and use that interest to trigger their sense of wonder and curiosity, which can then be maintained to ignite interest in learning other things.
I have always loved drama and languages. I use them constantly and I love it when they help students have light bulb moments.
Drama is a very powerful learning tool, it can be used for developing ideas and exploring concepts. Furthermore, voice work and projection are practical life skills and improving your posture, benefits your health and wellbeing. Improvisation exercises can be used to develop confidence and the ability to think on your feet.
When you speak another language, you open many doors of communication. People respond differently when you talk to them in their native language, they appreciate it and there is an instant connection. I have discovered that learning languages is a useful vehicle for teaching memory and learning techniques.
When I was in my late teens, a friend taught me how to memorise the American States, just for the fun of it, using rhythm, rhyme and movement. I was fascinated by how easy and enjoyable it was to learn them. This was what sparked my interest and intrigue in memory techniques.
Diverse and challenging teaching environments
I embrace challenge. It is great for teachers and it can help develop a wide variety of skills as well as improve teaching style.
When students are bored, disengaged or tired, they resist learning. In some cases they completely refuse to learn anything. In this case, teachers can develop creative tools and exercises to re – engage the students.
I have taught literacy to adults who couldn’t read, primary school children with English as their second language and teenagers who have just had enough of school! Deep down they all want to learn, they have usually given up because they have had enough of a particular structure or approach or they don’t see the relevance in the subject. They all like to learn things they are interested in – this sounds obvious, yet many students don’t make the connection between what is really important to them, their goals and interests, and the topic that they are learning.
Many students don’t realise how much they can learn or have any belief in their own abilities.
One inner city secondary school I taught in, had many students just like this. They had seen many teachers come and go and they had lost their interest and their self belief. They felt that no one cared and there was no point to learning.
I used my drama experience and my own passion for learning to re-ignite their interest. I developed creative activities to improve their writing and I taught memory techniques that they could use in different subjects. Most importantly, I took time out for the students, I let them know that I cared about them and that they mattered.
Ninety percent of the students I taught progressed 2 grades in a few months and some GCSE students improved from a predicted ‘D’ to achieving an ‘A’.
A summer position working with Hong Kong students exposed me to another culture, through which I developed an approach to teaching English that combined collaborative learning with peer teaching. The students improved in their communication, writing and confidence very quickly and they embraced the creativity and fast pace of the lessons.
I was beginning to learn a lot about learning. (and teaching)
Then I found out about The Lyceum School in Russia, where they take accelerated learning to a whole new level. Determined to visit the school and to get the most from my trip, I learnt to speak and understand Russian using 3 different language learning methods.
I was combining 3 of my favourite things – learning, languages and memory, to understand how the students cover the curriculum rapidly.
Learning the language had a positive effect on my overall experience at the school. Two main things stand out that enable the students to learn quickly – the school’s principles and their emphasis on creativity.
I combined my understanding from The Lyceum School with my own teaching experiences and my research into the brain and memory to create The Inner Spark approach to learning as well as 5 Star Learning – the 5 key things for fun, fast, effective learning.
In 2012 I visited The Lyceum School for a second time and I was asked to teach an English lesson. The students loved the different activities, they were very motivated and they asked lots of questions. I was inspired by their love for learning and their positive approach to life.
In the same year, I was invited to Bali to teach English and I had the opportunity to visit the Green School, described as ‘The World Leader in Sustainable Education’. The whiteboards are made from recycled car windscreens, the furniture is curved and the students grow their own food.
My inspiration from innovative education grew, I was seeing new possibilities for learning – motivated students, joyful places and sustainable approaches.
Then I was introduced to Puget Sound Community School, also known as ‘The Kindness School’ in Seattle, a school based solely on kindness. The school focuses first on human development, developing the students’ characters by helping them find their passion and learn from it. Kindness is an integral part of my teachings and I look forward to many more insights once I have visited the Kindness School.
The Journey Continues
The word ‘Education’ comes from the Latin word ‘Educare’, which means to draw out. (Latin is a great language to learn as it links to other languages).
Every child is a genius, some may not recognise it or have any self belief, yet with a supportive environment, creative activities and nurturing their passion, they can grow and flourish in many ways.
Education is there to connect students to their inner spark, help them realise their potential and develop a positive mindset. Learning can be lots of fun, full of laughter and happy, memorable experiences.
Do you have any questions or comments? Please get in touch