It Takes an Adult

I love hearing passionate people talk about passionate learning.

M.T. Anderson gave an amazing speech to accept a 2009 Printz Honor for The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation, Volume II: The Kingdom on the Waves(I just finished volume 1, The Pox Party. An awesome read!)

I wish I had heard him give the speech, but I enjoyed reading “On the Intelligence of Teens.” Here is an excerpt:

No child naturally hates knowledge. No toddler comes into the world saying, “Don’t tell me how stuff works. I don’t give a s%*t. Learning about the world sucks a#&.” Few Kindergarten classes are plagued by incuriousness. Few seven year olds can’t stand hearing about weird stuff that happens on the other side of the planet.

No, it takes an adult to make a child hate knowing things. The fact is, kids don’t believe that thinking isn’t fun until we tell them so.

We need to stop talking about how teens aren’t equal to challenges. Evidence suggests that kids respond strongly to our expectations, positive or negative. If enough of us have high expectations of their achievements, I believe that kids will rise to meet those expectations.

Anderson’s line “It takes an adult to make a child hate knowing things” makes me shiver. (It reminded me of some other important words Jesus spoke to teachers.)

It does take an adult to be a learning-joy-sucker, doesn’t it? I have had my share of lessons that I only taught them, thinking that was the goal. How off I was. The goal is for them to learn. I am ashamed of mistakes I’ve made in the past, but I am trying to make up for them with present and future students.

Read a Washington Post author profile about M.T. Anderson here.

At the time of this post, M.T.’s webpage is unavailable, but when it’s back, you can find it here and the speech here too.