Line leaders, recess, morning meetings, school lunches and big yellow school buses. All of these things invoke memories of those days in elementary school when all friendship meant was sharing your lunch with someone and your homework was learning the alphabet. Those were truly the golden days. Craft time, snack time and nap time were the most important things that helped get us kiddies through the day without a temper tantrum. Not only was elementary school the place where we made our first friends, but it was just a wonderful place to be.
My how things have changed. While we used to find joy in the fact that we’d be learning how to count past 100, we now stress over getting everything written down on paper while our professor whips through his slides at the speed of light. Along with classes come panic and constant thoughts about the future hanging over our heads like a dark rain cloud. While a project in grade school was drawing a picture of our family, a project now incorporates hours of tedious research and late nights spent with classmates in King Library. Needless to say, the joy of learning has transformed into a necessary evil we know we must endure if we want a well-paying career and a decent future.
If we know the information we are learning here is going to help us in the real world, why do we approach it with such a negative outlook? Perhaps it is the style in which we are doing the learning. Grade school learning requires coloring numbers or cutting and gluing shapes while playing with our classmates. College-level learning forces us to surrender to the cubicles of the library with our notes and $300 textbook to force as many facts into our brains as we can in time for the exam. This looks nothing like true learning. Rather, it looks like an intense session of memorization. However, it is not our professor’s fault alone. They must sacrifice depth by moving through lectures quickly if they want to cover all of the material. Nor is it our own fault, we must know this information by a certain date if we want to do well in the class.
So, who is to blame? Learning used to be a privilege, not a punishment, so where did things go wrong? Perhaps we should advocate for professors to teach with a “less is more” approach and go into greater depth with fewer topics. Maybe we should be working hard to really learn something.
According to dartmouth.edu, students learn better if they are motivated to deal with the struggles of learning and are engaged with the material. Let us use this information and run with it. We should remember why we chose to come to college in the first place. As Sir Francis Bacon once said, “Knowledge is power.” The more we know, the more powerful we can become. The more often we truly learn the material in our classes versus having it memorized, the more successful we will be in our future. Let’s learn just because we have the wonderful opportunity to do so.
We can revert back to the grade-school excitement of bringing home a new fact to tell and enjoy the fun of sharing a new tale if we allow ourselves to take a step back. Take a minute to wash away the strains and stresses of papers, exams and projects and focus on learning just for the love of it.