I have finally returned to blogging – hooray! I’m sorry for the absence, it’s been a busy few months, but as things are starting to wind down this term now, I should hopefully be able to blog more.
Today, I thought I would blog on a debate that has often raged in education: can, or should, holidays be opportunities to learn? In my opinion, I agree that yes, holidays can be opportunities to learn, though whether they should be depends upon what sort of learning is being advocated.
Of course, revising for exams and reading material to keep up-to-speed with classes is important if you’re a student; and learning about new mark schemes, syllabi, and methods of teaching is important if you’re a teacher. What isn’t constructive though is when you ‘breeze’ through these tasks, i.e. you do them to get them done, not really caring if you can only recall bits of information here and there. That sort of approach is likely to make you feel disaffected, and maybe even stress you out when it comes to the time where you have to draw on your knowledge, because you tell yourself (consciously or sub-consciously) your task is going to be boring. You might ‘breeze’ because you want to relax, which is perfectly understandable, but it won’t help your learning or relaxation in the long-run.
On the other hand, what if you do the work straight away/ quickly, because you’re excited by it? That’s great, you’re more likely to learn something, but maybe take some time to review it later. If you leave it for six weeks, you might forget some things, and it might make it harder to get back into the ‘flow’ of term-time. I remember how, after the summer holidays, me and some of my classmates (in primary and secondary school) would comment on how our handwriting felt a lot slower than it did before the holidays, because we didn’t write at speed in the holidays as we did in class. It would take some time to get used to it again!
The above concerns what I call formal learning. Now, I’m going to relate a personal experience of formal and informal learning on holiday. As you may know, I visited Turkey in the Summer for a holiday, and I took fiction and poetry books for University with me. Now, I’m not advocating that you take work on holiday with you for formal learning, but I did because:
1). It would be near the end of August when I came home, and I didn’t want to be stressing about trying to get lots of reading done in advance for University starting in mid-September.
2). I’m a Literature student, and I love reading! So, my reading would be both entertainment, and helpful preparation (how very reminiscent of a Horatian phrase…).
I ‘relaxed’ too though: I went swimming in the pool, I went out into the town, etc. What really captivated my attention though was the Turkish language and culture. This was cue for me to start informally learning Turkish, which I found gloriously different to English, my first language.
I arrived home missing Turkey, and anticipating the next time I could visit. What have I done since then? Well…
1). I bought a Turkish language textbook with CD in order to learn the language to an intermediate level (it was the highest level I could find, though I would like to become fluent).
2). I started listening to Turkish music. I love it, and try to listen to some every day. I even sang a bit of a song to my friends in the library one time, which rather amused them.
3). I have researched a little bit into Turkish culture and history.
4). Looked up how to make lavash (balloon bread). One of my friends also told me there’s a Turkish restaurant not far from where I live either – I cannot explain how much I want to go. Perhaps I can practice my Turkish there?!
5). Became extremely excited when I found out that, in one of my modules at University, I would be studying Lady Mary Wortley Montagu’s Turkish Embassy Letters from the 18th century. We only looked at two of the letters, but I intend to read them all over the Christmas holiday for fun. Yes, really – fun. I started looking for other Turkish literature too.
6). Researched TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) courses. I was so inspired by learning Turkish on holiday, that I thought, ‘Hey, wouldn’t it be great if you could help people speak English, in addition to teaching literature?’
Basically, my holiday kick-started a complete fascination with a country’s customs, culture, language, food, and history. I didn’t set out to learn, and I never expected my holiday to ignite such curiosity (though I am an inquisitive person, so perhaps I should have expected this of myself).
Therefore, I conclude that holidays can be learning opportunities, opening your mind up to things you never previously considered. Learning should always be encouraged, though in what form, how much, and when it takes place, all depends on the needs and desires of the individual concerned.
Now I want to hear from you, please: where do you stand on the debate? Do you have any experiences where you have learnt inadvertently?
I look forward to reading your responses!