Learning and teaching are difficult. When someone tries to teach, they expect results. To ensure results are acceptable, exams are taken. To force desired results, fear is alarmingly popular.
I get anxious in crowded places. For me it is a nightmare to drive on a road with bumper to bumper traffic with people looking for a chance to cross. Sadly, where I live, this is what the roads look like most part of the day. So I took driving classes. The instructor, a young guy, realized that I learn quick but failed to accept that I can have trouble driving.
But when I am anxious, I don’t act proper. When the traffic is heavy, I get concerned about everything around me. Sometimes, I’d stop to wait for a car to pass. The instructor wanted me to concentrate on driving. I’d skip changing gears or switch to the wrong one.
It appeared as if I was ignoring what he said. This irritated him. After all, he had taught me everything and I had demonstrated that. He could not fix my distractions. In turn, he triggered my anxiety by shouting. He told me that I must not make mistakes because it bother “him”. Well, I couldn’t care less, but I tried. His attempts to treat me like a school kid made me smile.
The instructor acted similar to teachers who go from motivational to insulting without affecting a change. They get frustrated despite good intentions. Over the years, they come up with more techniques, trademark remarks, punishments or tricks to make kids learn. Some stick to fear in varied forms. Expertise in a subject is one thing, understanding learning is another.
It is not what a teacher thinks the kids know. It is what the kids know. This is where exams come, to establish learning has happened. Students do everything to pass exams. Under pressure, we tend to fake. Exam is not a guarantee of learning. We know that from friends who were bright yet failed or those who passed but didn’t grasp basics. Like a driver’s license gives permission to drive but doesn’t guarantee that you will be not be rash.
At school, homework is evaluated to ensure that you have practiced. But how should we practice? I have never been into a discussion which talks about how to practice. Although, countless times I have been asked my rank, grades and marks.
The assumptions related to why and how to learn go unchallenged. Each one of us, carves an individual style. We figure out what works for us and what doesn’t. However, we continue to believe in techniques that work for all.
The problem is that common techniques do not help everyone. Attention to individuals is considered a burden. Do you know at least one person who paces up and down while preparing for exams? Or the one who switches off all the light except the table lamp?
It is convenient to make the whole group learn in the same way. No doubt, this fails quite so often. Then we resort to seeding fear. Fear of punishment, failure, shame, underachievement and ridicule. Fear may make kids practice and score marks. It does not foster curiosity and makes dangerous associates. Like school with punishment, failure with ridicule and exams with anxiety.