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sewingfinal.JPGTake a moment to think about something in your life you really really wanted to learn. Now think about how you went about learning it. Who was involved? Who or what helped you? Who or what stood in your way? How did you overcome those obstacles? Why did you keep trying in the face of difficulties?

When I was about 10, I wanted to learn how to sew. My mother said she couldn’t teach me, even though she knew how to sew well. So, I taught myself. I made so many mistakes; I learned from each one of them. I took lessons, asked those better than myself for help and continued to gain more sewing skills. The same applied to my ability to cook, drive, swim, use a computer or operate my iPhone. I wasn’t born knowing how to do any of those things and the only one taught in my school was driver’s ed. (I’m a great parallel parker to this day!) My motivation – or some would say my stubbornness – furthered my learning.

Now, I was a decent student and received good grades in school. I learned what was presented to me and mastered most content areas… some of which I still recall and many I don’t. However, I can’t think of a subject I put as much effort into as I did learning to make my own clothing, quilts, etc. If I were given the opportunity to bring that learning into my school day, I may have learned it more quickly and been drawn to the connections with math, geometry and design that I only came to appreciate much later. In the end, I am not worse off for it, but opportunities were squandered. I didn’t have teachers learning about me, my interests and considering lessons that would ignite that passion and motivate further learning. I had teachers who did the best job they could at teaching a curriculum that they were assigned to teach. Yes, that was good enough for my parents and their parents, but is it good enough for my children or yours?

At WMS, school is very different from what it looked like for most of us – and what it looks like at many other schools. We know so much more today about how learning takes place and the neuroscience behind mastering a new skill or incorporating a new concept. We follow children’s interests and get to know how they learn, helping them make connections through multiple neural pathways, increasing their motivation to learn. We don’t simply ask children to learn the things we want them to learn; we ask them what THEY want learn.