Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Grasping At Straws

Moments before my father died, I was walking down the hospital hallway and the floor starting rolling up and down like the sea; it felt like the tiles were waves under my feet. I wasn't about to pass out, but I threw my hand out towards the wall. I was in the middle of the hallway, so it made no difference as there was nothing to hold onto, and I continued walking towards my father's room. About an hour later he died.

I have had similar experiences when life is about to take a turn, only recognizing them after the turn happens; the ground under my feet literally wobbles, and I throw my hand out to hold on.

Similar events are happening now, only when I throw my hand out, I am finding some support.

For example, in this article, it turns out that everything we thought we knew about learning is wrong, and I have been deliberately cultivating the correct way to learn without having read this research (more of a gut instinct).

I have been moving away from tests and grades and more towards a collaborative approach that breaks down the steps of thinking, much like this article advises. We are thinking of moving towards a design-based curriculum, planning projects that benefit the community as well as the students.

I am trying to cultivate imagination and wonder, thinking ahead to jobs that may not exist right now but might in ten years.

The disconnect for me is when I am confronted with the standardized thinking of traditional schooling. What are we trying to accomplish here with our kids, and does it really work for all kids?

HoneyFern may not work for everyone; maybe we are too far out in our constructivist view of education. I believe that students are excellent shapers of their own curriculum, and that the role of a teacher is a guide and a resource-gatherer. I think that kids, given time and encouragement, will delve deeper and go farther than traditional eductaion will take them. I believe it is harder to work the way we do, both for me and for the student, but the results are far more rewarding than handing back a bubble sheet; our results go deeper than a simple letter grade or percentage.

 I do not believe in testing for the sake of testing, multiple-choice answers or reading and answering the chapter questions. I do not believe in molding all kids to be like their same-age peers, and I do not believe that a beaurocrat is the best person to be deciding what our kids should be learning, when.

We are publishing writing, monitoring the health of a stream and organizing a community garden. We are living as Victorians (well, only The Child and myself, and not until the summer). We ask questions and get involved. We are outside every day, and we take time to watch the clouds go by, to collect eggs from the chickens, to eat lunch together and cook for each other. Yes, we do daily math, we memorize anatomy and we write multiple drafts. But we also dissect and draw and create.

We are still seeking community members committed to the vision of persistence, creativity and hard work that matters. We know that it is not for everybody, and that is okay. If it is for you, get in touch and let's talk.

I agree: this is radical, earth-shaking stuff.

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