Learning is Optional


The old adage, “you can bring a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink,” has never been more true than in an average, everyday public school classroom.  I attended a PD earlier this year and they used a term I had never heard before, yet it seemed to fit a number of my students.  The term is ‘intentional non-learner.’  This is a student who chooses not to learn.  When I was a new teacher, I assumed that all students wanted to learn, and if students were doing things that were contrary to learning, then it was because they did not believe that they could learn it.  Everyone would learn if they could, right?  But no, the longer I teach, the more I realize that there are some young people who just don’t want to learn.  Even if you show them that they CAN learn it, they will choose not to.  They are not motivated by praise, they are not motivated by success, they are not motivated by achievement or a sense of pride or accomplishment.  What do you do with an intentional non-learner?  We are in the business of teaching, it goes against our very essence to accept a condition of non-learning.  But just because we do not accept non-learning, do THEY need to learn?  The environment that we create, is it about us, or is it about them?  Should they be allowed to not learn, if they choose not to?

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