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Relationship-based student-centered education

As adults, we won’t put up with what we, as a society, expect children to be happy with! If, as adults (and this does often occur at a job or even with traffic school after a traffic ticket), we have to sit through trainings that are irrelevant to what we are interested in, there would be the person here or there who would dutifully sit through the trainings and pass whatever test is at the end. Those are the people who probably did well in school. Everyone else will probably try to find the fastest and least painful way to get through the training and if there is any chance of skipping it or just reading a paragraph about it to sum it up, most would take that route. Why? Are they just being lazy? No, I think not at all, in fact, they are intelligently choosing to do something better with their limited amount of time. We all are curious and learn all the time whether we want to or not, even as adults, but we are only curious about certain topics and we also only learn in particular ways that differ from our neighbors’.  As a general rule, we need to have an interest in what we are supposed to be studying or it is just not an enjoyable activity! Maybe some other incentive will get us to do it (like a paycheck) but definitely not for our own enrichment and fulfillment.  

In addition, compared to children in typical schools, adults take lots of breaks. At work, adults can usually get up and go to the bathroom or go get a drink or check in with a colleague (unless in the middle of a meeting, of course) and they are getting paid to do all this. For children, we expect them to sit still for far too many hours, in many schools they’re not even allowed to go to the bathroom whenever they need it without a special pass, and they definitely can’t just get up and go chat with a friend or eat a snack. For that there will for sure be unpleasant consequences. They are even more scheduled than adults plus they don’t get paid to do so! They’re young and need lots of active movement and aren’t made for environments more strict than offices! 

How are we surprised that they start to hate learning?! Why do we wonder what happens to the creativity of children especially as they grow older or why there is such a lack of critical thinking? How are we shocked that they don’t do a great job all the time or try to rush off the homework so they can go play or hang out with friends? That’s what they’re made to do at that age according to their developmental stages! Of course, as with adults, there are always some things here and there that we all just need to do like the dishes and the laundry. I haven’t met many people who love doing those, but that doesn’t take up the majority of our lives! For school-aged children, as we do it, school and homework form the main part of their day. Most of their productive hours are forcibly consumed in this way. No wonder they’re so happy when it’s summer break or any sort of holiday. I believe not keeping kids actively involved in their own education is a futile attempt to fill up their brains with some irrelevant information and not giving them the tools they need for their future! 

In contrast, children attending the classes at Learn Beyond The Book and other like-minded organizations, don’t want the school year to end and are sad when it’s the last day of classes. Of course, they also look forward to summer vacation trips, but they aren’t counting the days for “school to be over”. Our philosophy at Learn Beyond The Book is that students choose what classes they would like to be part of. Even if those classes end up being the main core subjects, once registered and in the class, the instructors follow an interactive, Socratic method of discussion and active involvement of students to make sure topics are studied that interest the students and in ways that support their learning styles. Since the class sizes are small (less than 12 students), it is possible to individualize a lot of learning.

We also believe that students and instructors learn from each other and we try to stay in a growth mindset where we are open to continually learn, question, reflect, discuss, and form new insights. We are interested and eager to hear student and parent feedback and invite everyone to be part of our learning community. We also ensure that the community is filled with adults who really enjoy being with children, have empathy, and are kind. We encourage an environment of collaboration, rather than competition, and a non-judgmental space where mistakes are learning opportunities. Students are reminded to be kind and empathetic as well as encouraging to their friends. At Learn Beyond The Book, we believe wholeheartedly that true learning does not take place when there is not an authentic, caring relationship between the teacher and the student as well as between fellow students, so our goal is to foster a sense of caring community in all that we do, creating a safe space to grow. The results are amazing!

If our goal is for students to learn, we need to change the narrative of education and make it more in line with this quote by Benjamin Franklin – 

“Tell me and I forget, 

Teach me and I remember, 

Involve me and I learn.”

A great video on this topic is this one by Blake Boles about consent in education. I can’t agree with him more!

If you have a learning community and need help to change the environment, reach out and let’s see how we can help. If our learning community sounds like yours, we would love to connect and say hi; we love to know of others like us across the country and globe.