Smell the Roses

Let’s face it: Education is no rose garden, and not all bloomers, late or early, care to blossom at all.

Whoever has tried to teach German grammar to a bunch of instagramming tweens bundled up against their will - and really anyone’s better knowledge - in a run-down classroom located in what can only be described as the ditchiest school corridor of them all knows what I am talking about. 

What is it, I wonder, that makes educators and students want to learn, to teach, to contribute and to persevere? What is it, that makes us falter and give up, how can we approach failure and difficulty and turn a potentially nasty experience into something that will trigger personal and academic growth? What is it, I would often ask students at the beginning of a given schoolyear, that has put you here? And how can I convince you to commit yourselves?

The answers would vary, ranging from presumed genetic markers (“There is German blood in my veins, so I thought it’d be easy.”) to well-intended parental blackmailing (“My parents promised me an iPhone if I make it to Christmas.” to honest pragmatism (“Spanish was full.”). Not one student would take up national education policy.

Presented with the bigger picture and a rough overview of a national curriculum on the whiteboard, the crowd would liven up considerably: Why do we have a national curriculum at all? Is it working, does it fit in with other national policies and who gets to decide on the what, the why, the when and the where of curricular content?

How can we encourage curiosity and problem solving, trigger a lust for learning and avoid rehashing formulas which are of little help in the navigation of grown-up life? Fascinating stuff to think about before dismissing irregular verbs for Instagram.

Julia Ryberg