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Best Possible Selves 25

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Whether in the classroom, the lunchroom, or the family room, elementary school children are well aware of the difference between learning about things and actually doing them. In the primary years children are satisfied to do learning for its own sake; indeed, the very act of learning generally becomes its own act of doing. To put it another way, learning and doing at this age are essentially the same thing. However, as children grow into what we typically call upper elementary, they begin to realize that some approaches to learning, while important, may no longer be sufficient to fully hold their interest. They need their learning to feel relevant (consciously or unconsciously), or at least to sense that it involves a meaningful amount of doing. For most students there seems little doubt that this transformation becomes complete by the time that they reach middle school.

In working with 5th graders I am always curious about their evolving understanding of the inflection point between learning and doing. Although the following question from a recent assignment asked the students to write a paragraph relating specifically to their study of leadership, I believe that the answer below sheds light on much of what happens in a child's metacognitive journey from merely being a successful learner to becoming one's best possible self:

Are you more interested in studying leadership or in practicing it? What's the difference?

I'm very interested in studying leadership and practicing it. I find that they're both very good things to be interested in as well as helpful. In my opinion, practicing is a little more effective. For one, when you're practicing it you're also studying it as well. When you're studying you're learning about leadership. When you're practicing you're trying it out, as if you were in a situation that you had to take action. When you're practicing leadership you're also learning more about it, and you're learning the good and not so good things about leadership. I think I am more interested in practicing it because when you're studying it you're only learning what to do in those situations.