How far can we take the comparison between love and learning?

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A massive number of websites and apps claim to help people find romance and love. Does this mean we have learnt so much about people that we are now able to predict who will love each other? Or is love just as mysterious and unpredictable as it has ever been and we have just got better at managing probabilities?

As teachers we aim to enable a love of learning but true learning, like true love, is unpredictable and entirely personalised. Like match makers we can set up the conditions that make learning more likely to happen and perhaps this is the best we can do.

Is the comparison a helpful one and does considering it give us more of an insight into how we provide greater learning opportunities?

For me the most important message to take from the comparison is the fact that both can, and most often do happen entirely naturally and accidently without any intervention from others. We often forget as teachers that students learn continuously and gain most of their understanding outside of school, from their friends, their family, their play etc. It is important to understand that we are assisting, enabling and at most influencing learning rather than controlling it.

Secondly: Perhaps the majority of novels ever written contain characters who are in relationships but not in love. The literary tension caused by flipping between these two states of love and relationship leads to endless story lines. Is it fair to say our curriculum is analogous here to the relationship? The historical line has always been that if you work hard at it and engage entirely in making it work then eventually, even if the match was initially a poor one, you will find true love / the experience of true learning. Can students who look trapped in a curriculum which they have no longer any faith in and no control over be usefully compared to the plight of the characters from a Jane Austen novel? Are teachers throwing all of their energy into the dream of igniting the spark that occurs in most Hollywood blockbusters to enable the essential happy ending against all odds?

In the personalised classroom it is clear that teachers want all of their students to be engaged by learning and work hard to set up environments and opportunities that will spark that illusive love of the learning process. They work hard on building trust and are clear in the understanding that learning is a deeply human and unpredictable entity. At the same time they are pragmatic about the fact that, in today’s society everyone needs education to be successful and with or without the love of it, students must work hard at learning even if the spark never truly ignites.

To what extent should we define the core purpose of teachers to be engendering a love of learning? Should they be providing a range of opportunities, different experiences, a range of emotion and the right environment so that a love of learning can be nurtured and encouraged or so that they address different needs? It is not a measurable outcome and you cannot be held accountable for the number of students who develop a true love of learning but in the outstanding schools I have had the privilege to visit, teachers do gain the most fulfillment from aiming for this. They are enthusiastic purveyors of opportunities, role modelling their own love of learning through their excitement on finding that subtle mix of ingredients that makes magic happen.

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