"I enjoy teaching the most when I see my students enjoy learning in my class. I believe that learning becomes more meaningful if students enjoy the process of learning. Of course, results of learning, such as exam marks and quiz scores, are important, but learning only for test scores will not produce any joy in learning. When I teach, I often wonder how I can get my students to enjoy the learning process itself and not to study only for exams. As a teacher, I would like my students to find enjoyment, satisfaction, a sense of achievement, or any positive feelings when they learn. I believe that cooperative learning is one way to achieve this goal. Cooperative learning is one of the excellent student-centered approaches, which is based on a social constructivist view, and this teaching method becomes more effective when certain conditions are met and structures are well implemented." (Chie Katsuda, 2010)
The lady who wrote this is a former graduate student of mine. I recalled these lines from one of her papers, after having a conversation with a friend and colleague of mine, Ray Rennie, who teaches values at our school. Ray has been teaching in Canada for somewhere around 30 years or so and here at our school in Thailand for a few years now. He's a guy I am always learning from. One of the things we focus on at our school here is life-long learning, and Ray exemplifies that. We’re always talking about what’s going on with the students and ways we can help them get along better and learn from each other.
We were having a chat, which turned to experiences in education, and Ray was explaining something to me about how he likes to start his classes and why he uses a somewhat unorthodox procedure. “See Andy, look at them,” his kids were gathering in the room at the start of a values class, “we are just getting started but they don’t come in and sit down, they are walking around.” Ray went on to say, “look, a lot of people tell you to get the kids on task and get them started right away, but I don’t believe in that.”
Ray’s methods are a little different. Hid kids came in, and often the direction is simply to try to find something. On this particular day Ray had hidden a toy rubber gecko that he keeps on his desk somewhere in the room. So the kids are searching for the gecko. The one who finds the gecko gets a candy.
“But you see, while they are looking for it, I watch them,” Ray elaborated. “And I notice things, I learn about how they are that day, what their feelings are.” There are days he will notice someone is looking a little down and he can pull them aside for a private word and see if he can help or possibly find out what the situation is that is causing stress for that individual. On other days he can notice a particular troublesome mood of the group as a whole and make adjustments to what he is doing to accommodate it.
Ray looked at me as I watched his kids moving around in the room: “You see, these kids, they are more important than the subject; they are more important than me.”
Ray Rennie, a guy who knows, has always known, why we are doing this.