Most of us do not learn stuff until we are ready. “Ready” can mean a lot of things – for example, are we intellectually developed enough or motivated enough? For example, we can learn to use social media because there is an incentive to connect to others. Many adults, who who value “real time” relationships often don’t, and can’t, use Facebook, Twitter, etc. They are not ready, and may never be.
Teachers see students everyday who are ready, or not, to learn, but not all teachers realise this and act on it. If we teach the same material, to all students, at the same pace, then the students who may not be “ready”, for various reasons, will miss out. They will also probably miss out the next time, and the next, until they are viewed (and view themselves) as failures.
So, it is our job to help students to be ready to learn. From a pastoral care perspective, students should arrive at school healthy, rested, calm, fed and with their necessary materials. When this doesn’t happen, schools need procedures to compensate, such as in the many schools that have a breakfast program.
However, it is in class that the main task begins. Even if we feel tied to some sort of high-stakes testing, that doesn’t mean that we can’t treat our students as individuals, and work out what it is we have to do with each one to help them to be ready to learn.
In classes in which there is true differentiation, teachers use a range of strategies to help students be “ready”. The main tool for encouraging readiness is motivation, through engaging the interests of students in tasks that are relevant to them. Students enter classrooms with a rich store of prior knowledge that can be related to their classroom material by simply talking with them, not at them.
Also, students need time to reflect on their learning, and collaborating with others is a powerful way to clarify and reinforce learning. Teaching students to work cooperatively is essential.
At the end of the day, helping students to be ready to learn is remembering that it is all, in fact, about their learning.