by Mary Ann on December 18, 2010

Jody Jarvis

The Inspiration Connection:

How Being Inspired Transforms the Quality and Effectiveness of our Education.

by Jody Jarvis

When educational experiences are required the result is students who are bored, who day dream, who memorize the minimum required and forget it the next day. For the student, the learning experience seems to drag on forever (“Are we done yet?”) and minutes seem like an eternity.. For the teacher it seems like pulling teeth just to get the student to participate.

When educational experiences are inspired the result is students who are excited, who focus on the activity with zeal, who go above and beyond the expected and remember it the rest of their lives. For the student, the learning experience seems to fly by in a flash (Are we done already?!), hours seem like mere minutes. For the teacher it feels like the student is almost pulling them along instead of the other way around, or that the student is hot on their heels and the race to the finish could be won by either participant – them or the student.

Recently I had an experience in both scenarios. My kids and I participated in an online class for which we had to read several classic books. Two in particular really stood out. One was called Mythology by Hamilton. While the stories themselves can be considered classic, our family’s personal opinion of this rendition was not so great. It was fairly dry reading and we had to push ourselves to even try. None of us finished the book, myself having read the least of the three of us. We did it only because it was part of the class but it seemed to drag on “FOREVER!!” We tried to read the minimum required but couldn’t even pull that off. Our attention as we read was on other things and so for the most part I do not think we will remember much of what we read.

The other story, on the other hand, was a different experience all together. It was called Elantris by Brandon Sanderson. We couldn’t read it fast enough. We couldn’t put it down. Since we read separately in order to be able to mark our books with our personal ah ha’s and underline our favorite lines, I was ahead of the boys in the story. As I got to exciting parts I would exclaim over the storyline, or hint that something amazing was coming up. But I wouldn’t tell them what it was. “You have to read it yourself!” I would say. I didn’t want to spoil it for them. They, for their part, tried their best to catch up to where I was. There came a time when none of us could put the book down, we just had to see how it turned out.

The Jarvis Family - Kenyon, Schyler, Pierson, Jody

In order to get my kids (and I) to read the first book we had to remind each other, set aside time each day, remind each other, to have it as part of a class assignment, and remind each other again of our need to read it. In other words – require. In order to get them to read the second book all I had to do was give them a taste of how much I enjoyed it myself, to add a little mystery and suspense, and to be the example. In other words – inspire!

What did we learn from the first book? Not much, really. Maybe a tiny bit about the Greek Gods and how depraved they were, but not much else and I am sure we will forget whatever it was we did get out of it in a matter of weeks perhaps.

What did we learn from the second book? Tons! We learned about different leadership styles, we learned that a leader must continue even when it gets hard, we learned about compassion, strategy, love, loyalty.

The difference was partly the books we read (one was very dry, the other quite exciting and thrilling). But I also believe that my example as a parent also played a huge part. I lost interest in the Mythology book, I decided I needed to work on other things (convincing myself that since I wasn’t a true member of the class I didn’t truly need to finish the reading). How might this have played out differently if I had put more effort into learning about Mythology with my kids? How might it have be different if I had been excited to read the book, read it ahead of them and enticed them with hints of what was to come in the next chapters? I was excited by Elantris and my kids were pulled along by my enthusiasm. When they were asked which was their favorite book in the class they both said Elantris. Least favorite? I’ll leave it to you to guess, but I bet you already know.

Now what should I inspire them about next……..?

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