The joy of learning

ROSES AND THORNS - Pia Roces Morato - The Philippine Star

As with all things that are deeply humanizing and transformative, education is ultimately hinged on trust. Trust that a student is engaged and interested in learning for learning’s sake, and not because they are chasing grades, or craving parental approval or arbitrary ratings. Indeed, grades are given the proper context when learners strive to be graded on their merit, for the sheer reason that they have merit to be recognized.

In these trying times, we are all sort of rolling back into a place that is more grounded and more couched in instinct, as it helps us feel connected after being physically disconnected for so long. Students, for example, must be encouraged to cultivate their instincts and reconnect with learning like they did when they were first learning to walk, or talk, or that if they made a certain noise, their mothers and fathers would understand what they wanted.

This is a very difficult task we have placed upon our children. As classical education theorist John Dewey wrote, “The center of gravity is outside the child. It is the teacher, the textbook, anywhere and everywhere you please, except in the immediate instincts and activities of the child.”

This is why perhaps synchronous online classes remains a big question mark; what are we trying to achieve by insisting that things should be exactly the same, if not more rigid, than before we were locked in for two years? It’s a fact that children who are more active exhibit better focus, faster cognitive processing and more successful memory retention than kids who spend the entire day sitting still. Keeping the body active promotes mental clarity, by increasing blood flow to the brain, making activity vital not only to learning, but to physical and neurological health too.

Which makes me grateful for how the public sector has really stepped up during the pandemic, with special focus on the local government units (LGUs). In Quezon City, where I live, the LGU was vigilant in ensuring that learning gaps would not become chasms while our kids were home staying safe, and continued to provide learning kits and school supplies for public school learners from kindergarten to senior high while the blended and module-based learning modes are still in use. Cheesy as it may sound, but our children are indeed the future. We cannot let them grow up without the value of a good education built on trust.

Take the tablets, for example. The learning kits given out to the kids were put together according to the specifications and recommendations of the Department of Education’s Division Office. Furthermore, each child beneficiary was given a tablet with a monthly allowance for data. Even teachers, often easily overlooked by benefactors – and very easily disliked by students despite all they do to try to avert being hated – were able to receive laptops and WiFi modems with data and P1000.00 monthly load allowance in order to have the connectivity necessary to give our children the competitive edge that the world will not forgive if they have none.

Another important factor apart from trust and movement that is often overlooked when it comes to education is emotion. Several theorists and psychologists have identified four major “knowledge emotions” important in this regard: surprise, interest, confusion and awe.

Although they differ in some ways, surprise, interest and confusion are similar in that they typically are evoked by something novel. These emotions often function to “catch” individuals’ attention, a prerequisite for learning to occur.

Awe may be the most powerful knowledge emotion, and involves a response to something so vast or great that an individual’s previous way of thinking about a phenomenon no longer is adequate. When students change their fundamental beliefs, gain a newfound appreciation or change their self-identity because of something they encountered during a course – when education has been a transformational experience – awe likely was evoked. In the past few years, scientists have discovered that awe influences behavior in unique ways. Most relevant here is how awe is implicated in inspiring greater critical thinking, curiosity and creativity.

My heartfelt awe and admiration therefore goes out to Mayor Joy Belmonte for going above and beyond what she was expected to do for our kids in school. On top of providing them with tablets and data to keep the learning going, any which way they choose, Mayor Joy took her promise to be a kindred spirit with the parents of our community to heart, and this is a behavior that you do not learn in school but on your own gumption and desire to ease the burdens of another.

Mayor Joy has been directly responsible for the health and welfare of close to 1,500 kids – even those kids who have been abused and in delicate situations that cannot be fixed yet. Her help could not come at a better time, when so many kids deserve to have a beautiful and magic holiday.


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