Transforming Education into a Reflex

Transforming Education into a Reflex

We are born and we die, and in between we live a life cycle where we learn stuff to ensure the longevity and the quality of our survival between the above mentioned vital milestones. Learning starts as early as life and ends only when we die. And in seldom cases, learning goes on even after we die (if we donate our cadavers to medical students where they are the ones who do the learning). That’s one of the reasons why learning is so crucial!

Before we begin to learn any of the serious stuff, we activate our built-in reflexes that ensure our survival as babies, like sucking, swallowing, grasping and crawling. That’s basically how babies can breathe, eat and drink and move (crawl) to their mother’s breasts when placed on their stomachs to hold (grasp) the organic milk dispenser and get (suck and swallow) the milk flowing without needing an external instructor, a whiteboard or any homework.

Then, we develop (or can we say learn here?) more complex reflexes, which are basically motor reflexes acquired by repetitive responses like what chain of actions we follow after learning how to ride a bike, or how we jam the brakes when we see an object on our path while speeding. Why we don’t actually think of hitting the brakes rather than just doing it, is what makes this, a reflex. Just think about walking! It would be insane to think about the every step you take; left foot forward, right foot forward… heels first upon contacting the ground, toes springing upward upon leaving the ground…

First-steps
Image source: Healthline

Weirdly enough, most of the time, we don’t have a recollection of the learning processes that we have mastered and became reflexes, like walking. Perhaps it is so, as the learning process took a long time ago and we tend to have little to less memories of our infancy… or perhaps we have undergone a completely different learning process which is way different from how we are taught in traditional schools following outdated norms that have not changed for ages.

Imagine a classroom of 20 or so infants, each having a different cultural background, interest, motivation and tiny, little distractions crawling next to each other… and just one teacher battling to do her job; trying to teach to the middle ground by putting on educative, audiovisual material on play before the students are saved by the bell they have been longing for.

Perhaps, we should find ways to transform learning into a reflex!

On a personal level, what we intend to learn must be turned into fun, we should also ditch our fears of failure and lose our prejudices for an effective learning process.

But, what can be done on a global level?

Learning has to be in the most natural way possible, so we may consider…

… getting rid of prison-cell feeling indoor classrooms with badly styled furniture, as they are not usually comfy enough to keep students focused on the subject matter…

… keeping lesson duration to what’s in focus and shorten or lengthen the duration accordingly. Besides, students lose focus after a certain time…

… having a smaller number of students grouped by their learning styles. It doesn’t take 15 people to change a light-bulb, but somehow educators seem to be expecting the exact outcome. Having less and like-minded students will provide them equal opportunities to actually learn something…

… encouraging students to ask questions. The current education system fails at this as younger students, cooped up in with indifferent peers, often refrain from asking anything, afraid their friends will make fun of them and older students are mostly lectured in giant halls with 100+ other people, where education is always on a tight schedule…

… losing the concept of daily homework, or at least modifying it greatly. As working adults, the happiest and the most productive times at work are when we don’t stay overtime or bring work to home. Think about bringing work home every single day!

… finding alternative ways of rewarding and grading students. In real life, we don’t get grades on our acquired reflexes like walking, etc…

… rewarding creative thinking, questioning and such skills, not having students memorize and copy-paste what the textbook says… Originality denies copy-pasting!


In real life, we can learn a foreign language better when we travel to the target country and immerse with the culture…and weirdly enough what is taught and what is natural can be completely different:

Which line is better when we order a cup of coffee in a cafe abroad?

“Excuse me! I would like to have a cup of coffee, please.” (What is taught)

versus

“Hello! Coffee, please.” (What people actually say)

We can learn about basic math better when we start using money, rather than adding up, subtracting, multiplying or dividing insignificant numbers…

Look at the math problem below that a young student may encounter at school:

“Carol has five eggs and she gives 2 of them to her friend Pedro. How many eggs does Carol have now?”

Math problems at current schools like the one above never work for most students like I was, as I cannot stop myself from trying to figure out other questions unrelated and irrelevant to the real problem such as…

Who are Carol and Pedro?

Why does Carol have eggs in the first place?

Why does she give two to Pedro?

Are they close friends or not?

What will Pedro do with the two eggs he now possesses?

(Perhaps, I am the odd one out here as I have never given or received any eggs from a friend before).

We can learn about world geography better when we start visiting different countries and learning from the source…

We can learn about history better by visiting historical sites rather than reading about them in a textbook accompanied with a crappy image…

textbook
A descriptive image of a place found in an actual textbook!

We can learn about psychology better by interacting with people, and just by listening to them (assuming they would do the same)…

We can learn about biology better by spending some time on farms or by going camping…

We can learn everything better if we live through it! And repetitive, personal experience is what transforms an action into a reflex!

If you think the above methods require loads of money, just think about how much each country annually spends on the outdated education system that doesn’t really teach.

Non-Native Language Teachers versus Native Language Teachers

Non-Native Language Teachers versus Native Language Teachers

mapEnglish2

In an ever globalising world like ours, you can be born anywhere on the sphere (Perhaps, Antarctica is a less likely destination but still… there are plenty of places to be born on our planet.) You have an instant advantage in becoming the master of your culture and native tongue the moment you are born. You begin learning your native tongue without even being aware of the process. It’s total immersion.You do not even remember learning how to speak it, read it or write it. It’s almost automatic like breathing.

Breathing!

The first action we learn right after being born! Every soul born, masters it in just a few seconds. Everybody is excellent at it… We can easily say that we are all native breathers! Now, imagine that you are hired as a native breathing-instructor to teach how to breathe to a bunch of newborns (and just for the fun of it, imagine that they cannot learn it by themselves). What would you do? How would you even start? What would your first instruction be?

Open your mouth and suck in air through your mouth or nose???

In theory, being a native and having it done a zillion times, you should be an excellent teacher at Breathing – 101. However, that’s not the case, is it? Think about Albert Einstein or Dr.Michio Kaku (if you want a more contemporary example)! Did they start gaining scientific knowledge right from the time they were born? Were they native physicists? The answer is a big “no”. But, noone can claim that they are (or would be) “not so competent” in teaching Physics, can they? We should look at the non-native language teachers the same way. There may be marvels among us (language teachers) who will always fall behind in job hunts just because we are not passport holders of a country that we are teaching the language of. Having mastered the target language for decades will not put you in front of a native candidate (in a job application) who has no experience in teaching! Sometimes the label is more important than the content.

I have no intention of offending native language teachers in this article, but don’t we at least, deserve an equal chance in professional life? Below are some points which might make non-native language teachers a choice at least:

Non-native language teachers…

* have gone through a similar learning process as their pupils and can identify the tough parts in learning the target language and take precautions…

* can explain unexpected questions about grammar points as they have not learned it unconsciously unlike native teachers…

* can adjust their level of English according to the students’ level and communicate much easier with them…

* are more intercultural and aware…

* have better sppelign, speeling, splenig….spelleing…. (or maybe I should leave this one out)

I want to know what you think. Please comment!!!