Listening to Dave Sulzer talk about teaching elephants to play music really hit home for me. He began by finding out that elephant trainers and owners all know that elephants love music. From there, he moves right to, “If they like music, can they learn to play music?”
An elephant never forgets his notes!
As an educator, I often try to use what my students love to help them learn. I remember one student, “Joe”, who struggled with reading and writing. But he loved art. He would pore over art books and watch videos about artists. So I used his love of art to help him demonstrate his knowledge. “How would Picasso teach us about this book? What would the main character look like? What would the setting be?” Soon, he was creating a book report in the style of Picasso. He was so excited to have “Picasso” paint about the book, that he didn’t even realize how much he was studying the text to get everything right.
Then there was “Debbie” who hated math. She could never remember her math facts, which made higher level computation quite difficult. But she was an amazing musician, playing both piano and violin quite well. I had her compose songs to help her learn her math facts. She enjoyed the project so much that she kept creating songs to memorize other information, too. At one point, she created a song as a study guide for a social studies test we were having. I posted her song on our website and many other children accessed this tool to assist them, also.
Helping students find what interests them is an important part of being a teacher. We work to expand their horizons, giving them experiences they might never have without us. Once students know what they are passionate about, learning about their passion comes easy. Using that passion to learn more, helps students feel more engaged in school and understand more about the required concepts. Just like the elephants, who learned to play the music they were passionate about hearing, children will learn when they use their passions. Our job? Help them find a way.