I wrote the following in my journal about 9 years ago. As I think about the elements of classroom learning, i.e., desire, drive, motivation and goals, it seems appropriate to add this to my blog. JPM
A few days ago I called a former student, who must have been in my class as a senior about 20 years ago. We had gotten to be friends over the years and at least once a year I still call or she calls me just to stay in touch. She was a special education teacher. In her case, I don’t know whether “special” should modify the word “education” or "teacher." She was an unusually gifted and mature student.
I asked, as I always do, about Steve, her husband, and the children. Rebecca is 6 and in the first grade; Madeleine is four and finishing her last year of preschool before entering kindergarten, a major step as Madeleine sees it. But the really interesting part to me was Nancy’s recounting an incident that took place at Hebrew school a few weeks ago. Rebecca goes to the Hebrew Day School and attends Hebrew classes, taught by an Israeli woman, twice a week. One afternoon was set aside as a free period when younger siblings were invited to see the classroom and to play some games. Madeleine enjoyed running around with the other younger children, but her older sister, Rebecca, felt out of place and complained about the “kid stuff,” saying she was too old for this. Her mother suggested, “Why don’t you just come and sit here with me and we can talk.” Rebecca sat next to her mother and said (I believe I have this word for word), “Mother, I only want to study the Torah, so that when I’m older I can become a rabbi, and then I can teach people how to pray, so they will know that there is only One God.”
What grace. Here was a six year old with all the desire “to study the Torah,” and the drive to make it her “only” wish without distraction, and the motivation to learn so that she could “teach other people” with the final goal of having them understand a truth that was already very dear to her, “to know there is only One God.”
One might worry that a child like Rebecca, especially in our world where most children are allowed, thankfully, to remain children as long as they like, might be too serious and miss out on the fun of being six. Not at all. When she is with children her own age, she loves to play, to make up games, even to play with words, both in English and Hebrew, and to tease about her sure Israeli accent. Other children like her. Who wouldn’t like a bright friend who loves to play and whose motivation for learning is basically within and who can make up games?