Learning how to learn


A student learning how to draw by himself at the drawing station

The mantra of the La Salle Learning Centre is: “we come here to learn how to learn.” Learning is not as straightforward as we think. My father, who was a well-loved teacher and principal who taught in government schools, lamented that teachers were either spoon-feeding or force-feeding students. That’s one of typical hazards of education, I suppose.

So how do we help our children – and ourselves — become self-motivated learners? Or if we are leaders in organisations, how do we help to accelerate the learning process for our staff?

From the playbook of the La Salle Learning Centre, here are some surprisingly counterintuitive and powerful principles on how to learn:

  1. Focus on the person, not the subject. “If you really want to teach John Maths, you must know John,” Brother John D’Cruz told me. So, forge a strong bond with people. You’ll discover that these bonds becomes the foundation for learning and leadership.
  2. Emotions matter. Teaching a person how to regulate emotions is the critical factor in helping children or adults thrive in adverse situations. At the La Salle Learning Centre, I saw how Chris Lee taught the children to delay gratification. He did that by making the kids count from one to ten before they could enter the classroom or open the refrigerator. Eventually the kids learned how to count one to ten before getting angry.
  3. Solitude. According to sports experts and psychologists, the biggest factor for attaining expert performance in any field is the solitary time spent in deliberate practice. That’s why the kids at the learning centre sit by themselves, at a desk, facing the wall. For one hour, they learn by themselves. That’s the first step toward becoming independent learners. As a result, the kids at the centre don’t need teachers or friends to urge them to do homework.
  4. Community: At the same time, no one works or learns alone. You need to practise your learning and leadership skills in community. At the centre, the one hour of play are critical times for children to learn how to negotiate, collaborate and give feedback to one another.
  5. The power of love: Anne Chew, a retired Mathematics teacher and volunteer at the learning centre, told me that if the children walk into the centre looking exhausted, she’d let them sleep. “We’re not the form teacher. We just want them to learn, and to love what they are doing. We give the kids a bit of love, and it’s so meaningful to see them responding. Love begets love.”



For the full story of Love and Learning, please click here.

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