09/13/2011 11:23 am ET | Updated Nov 13, 2011

Can We Teach Children to Love Learning?

Recently, I saw a sign that read, "Teachers who love teaching, teach children to love learning."

I remember the wide-eyed wonderment of my own children as they discovered their environment, learned to talk and learned to walk. I did not have to teach them to be curious and figure out how. I did observe that each child achieved these milestones in different ways and at different times. So what is this about teaching a child to love learning? Would it not be better to allow every child ... to discover ... create ... and actually own and be able to use his or her knowledge?

Children need to own knowledge. Constructivism is a key; children creatively use what they already know to make sense out of new situations. It is the sense of disequilibrium that can drive a child to push forward, become a risk-taker and discover/create new understandings. Through social collaborations, observations, and experiments, each child brings a unique mix of experience and knowledge.

When we teach or model the expected process, we set up outcomes that determine a child's thinking. We, in a sense, take away the right to own knowledge and perhaps value individuality. Students may understand a concept in the moment, within the context in which it is presented, however, it may be only that. When an adult is heard saying, "You learned this last year," one has to question the definition of the word learn. Did you learn it in the moment to satisfy a specific teaching goal or test, or did you discover it in such a way as to challenge prior thinking and assimilate and accommodate to enable its use in different contexts? Can you use what you know to envision different perspectives?

Traditional teaching may be creating the illusion that "doing as I do" is learning. Learning has to do with thinking and trusting your own thinking while being open to the ideas of others. Socialization enhances learning and the reverse is true.

Children learn in different ways over different periods of time. For a teacher to think that a lesson plan with stated goals within a particular amount of time (the accepted quintessential essence of learning to teach) creates learning, is misleading. We teach teachers how to plan, brainstorm, lay out thinking patterns, and logical sequences. This will probably work for some children in each class who may think the same way as their particular teacher.

What about the rest of the children? When do we show respect for them? When do we value the way a child thinks and learns? Shouldn't the sign read, "Teachers who love teaching, allow children to love learning?" The best part of teaching is being surprised... surprised by the creativity, the points of view, the experiments, the risk-taking... all of which may never see the light of day if the teacher "knows" how to teach children to love learning.