Last week I talked about developing independent learners by instilling the joy and excitement of learning in each child. Once we get those children interested in learning, we need to make sure that we provide them with the basic tools of learning.
Most people recognize reading, writing and arithmetic as the basic tools of learning; with those basics, we can learn just about anything. But the tools I'm talking about are even more basic than these. We need to teach children how to be life-long learners.
One of the first tools we need to give children is perseverance. My husband's favorite quote, from his father, is "Nothing hard is ever easy." We want to make things as easy as we can for children, but the reality is that some things will always be difficult. We need to teach them this, but also show them that, through perseverance and hard work, they can accomplish whatever they set out to do.
Allowing, and encouraging, the children to work with partners or groups will help them to start developing those collaboration skills that are so important in most American businesses these days. Most employers are looking for the complete package employee--someone who not only has content knowledge and skills, but have emotional intelligence, social skills, and the ability to work collaboratively.
Children are curious. We have to encourage and nurture that curiosity by giving children a safe environment in which to explore; not just physically safe, but emotionally safe as well. They need to understand that we all make mistakes, but those very mistakes are what help us to learn. In modeling acceptance of mistakes (and the ability to admit our own mistakes), we can also help those children to develop empathy for one another. In demonstrating an ability to "roll with the punches" when things don't go as we planned, we can teach the children to do the same.
With these tools in their toolboxes (perseverance, collaborative skills, emotional intelligence, social skills, curiosity, empathy, flexibility, and the ability to accept mistakes), children are prepared to tackle whatever comes their way and to start taking responsibility for their own learning.